Podcast: Mexico and the struggle for the genetic commons
In Episode 166 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses how a little-noted US-Mexico dispute on trade and agricultural policy has serious implications for the survival of the human race. Washington is preparing to file a complaint under terms of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement over Mexico's decree banning imports of GMO corn, slated to take effect in January 2024. Concerns about the (unproven) health effects of consuming GMO foods miss the real critique—which is ecological, social and political. GMO seeds are explicitly designed as part of an "input package" intended to get farmers hooked on pesticides and petrochemical fertilizers, and protect the "intellectual property" of private corporations. Agribusiness, which can afford the "input package," comes to dominate the market. Eased by so-called "free trade" policies, agbiz forces the peasantry off the market and ultimately off the land—a process very well advanced in Mexico since NAFTA took effect in 1994, and which is intimately related to the explosion of the narco economy and mass migration. The pending decree in Mexico holds the promise of regenerating sustainable agriculture based on native seed stock. It is also a critical test case, as countries such as Kenya have recently repealed similar policies in light of the global food crisis. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Mexico: 140 missing in wake of Sinaloa violence
Residents of Jesús María barrio in Culiacán, capital of Mexico's Sinaloa state, marched on the governor's palace Jan. 9 demanding action on the whereabouts of 140 community members they say have been missing since violence engulfed the city after the arrest of a top cartel kingpin four days earlier. The youngest of the missing residents is said to be 12 years old. Protesters also denounced abuses by the military troops that have been patrolling Culiacán since the outburst, including illegal detentions and home searches. (Aztec Reports, La Verdad, Juárez)
'Law of Genocide' introduced in Peru
In the midst of the political crisis gripping Peru, reactionary elements in the country's Congress have launched an initiative to repeal the 2006 law establishing reserves to protect isolated indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest. AIDESEP, Peru's trans-Amazonian indigenous alliance, is calling Law Project 3518/2022-CR the "Law of PIACI Genocide"—a reference to the Spanish acronym for Indigenous Peoples in Isolation or Initial Contact. The AIDESEP statement also charges that the congressional Commission on Decentralization & Regionalization submitted the bill on Dec. 14 without first seeking clearance from the Commission on Andean & Amazonian Peoples, which holds first authority in the matter.
Protests as US troop mission approved for Peru
Peru's Congress last month, at the behest of President Pedro Castillo's government, voted to approve the entry of US military troops for participation in several weeks of anti-drug and anti-terrorism operations. But the Aug. 4 vote was protested by voices within Castillo's own Partido Perú Libre (PPL), with legislator Kelly Portalatino calling it a "sign of submission." (Prensa Latina) A previous such US troop mission in 2015 saw operations in the Valley of the Apurímac and Ene Rivers (VRAE), a key coca cultivation zone. Campesinos of the VRAE Federation of Agrarian Producers (FEPAVRAE) have just announced a region-wide indefinite paro (civil strike) to begin Oct. 5 in protest of ongoing government coca-eradication campaigns. (Sputnik)
El Salvador: Bitcoin flop, pseudo-war on gangs
A year ago, El Salvador's baseball cap-donning president Nayib Bukele declared Bitcoin legal tender in the country—a global first that has been a flop. Since then, Bitcoin has lost half its value. Many Salvadorans, who were dubious on the plan to begin with, cashed in on a $30 government bonus offered as an incentive to download a dedicated Bitcoin app, only to delete it once they received the money. The lack of enthusiasm may have protected people from losses due to Bitcoin's volatility. But many in the country have still sunk deeper into poverty in the past year. One reason—in addition to the country's overall financial struggles—is a crackdown on gang violence by the self-described "dictatorial" president that has seen more than 52,000 alleged gang members rounded up since March. Instead of catching criminals, innocent people are being arrested to meet quotas. The majority of those detained may not even have links to gangs, according to local media, and the arrests have left many poor families without breadwinners.
Bolivia: La Paz marches for and against government
The pro-government Pact of Unity and Bolivian Workers' Central (COB), the Andean country's largest trade union federation, held a "March for Democracy" in La Paz on Aug. 25 to oppose what they called "destabilization" attempts and demonstrate their support for President Luis Arce. Thousands marched from the outlying working-class city of El Alto to Plaza Mayor de San Francisco in La Paz, where a mass rally was held. COB leader Juan Carlos Huarachi told the crowd: "All over the world, capitalism wants to destabilize progressive governments that protect the wealth of nations. Meanwhile, the oligarchies play into the Empire's game." (TeleSur, Telesur, EFE)
Senegal: peace process with Casamance rebels
The concluding of a peace agreement between Senegal and separatist rebels in Casamance is being hailed by the government as "an important step" toward ending the 40-year conflict in the southern region. The deal was signed Aug. 5 in neighboring Guinea-Bissau by a delegate from President Macky Sall's administration and Cesar Atoute Badiate, leader of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), which has waged an insurgency since 1982. The long-simmering conflict was re-ignited in January 2021 when the Senegalese army launched a major offensive against the rebels. The Casamance rebels, accused of trafficking in timber and cannabis, have often taken refuge in Guinea-Bissau or Gambia. But Seydi Gassama, director of Amnesty International Senegal, noted that the MFDC is now but one of several rebel factions. "The negotiations must expand to include these factions so that a peace deal can be quickly signed with all the factions and peace can be established throughout all of Casamance," Gassama said. (North Africa Post, VOA)
Podcast: the forgotten war in Colombia
In Episode 128 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg provides an in-depth analysis of the under-reported multi-sided armed conflict and deepening human rights crisis in Colombia on the eve of an historic run-off election that poses two populist "outsider" candidates for the presidency: Gustavo Petro, a former guerilla leader and Colombia’s first leftist presidential contender, versus Rodolfo Hernández, a right-wing construction magnate whose pugnacious swagger inevitably invites comparison to Donald Trump. This turning point comes as Colombia has established a new "partnership" with NATO, obviously in response to Venezuela's deepening ties with Russia. Yet Colombia's armed forces continue to collaborate with the outlaw paramilitary groups that terrorize campesino and indigenous communities. If elected, Petro will face the challenge of breaking the state-paramilitary nexus, and charting a course independent of the Great Powers. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
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