In Other News
World War 4 Report editor Bill Weinberg, just back from Peru, will speak Friday June 28 at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS), 155 Ave. C between 9th and 10th Streets, on New York's Lower East Side. The talk and slide show will focus on struggles for urban space in Lima (community centers, squats, gardens); the movement for legalization of coca leaf, and against US-led eradication efforts; and peasant struggles for land and water against US mineral companies in the Andes. There will also be a report on recent protests in Lima against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, with a representative from NY Metro Trade Justice. The presentation will begin promptly at 7:00 PM.
The US government on June 17 released (text, PDF) the names and nationalities of 46 men who are classified for "continued detention" at Guantánamo Bay detention center, ineligible for release, transfer or prosecution. The names were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Miami Herald and the New York Times. In the 2010 Guantanamo Review Task Force (PDF) the US government explained continued detention:
So, it's come to this. After more than 12 years of the United States being at war in Afghanistan, the Taliban have opened a "political office" in Qatar preparatory to negotiations with the Kabul government's High Peace Council and the US—a culimination of a series of preliminary meetings in various countries leading toward direct peace talks. The principal prerequisite that the US set for the talks is that the Taliban commit to not using Afghanistan as a staging ground for terror attacks abroad. (Khaama Press, BBC News, June 18) Through their website Voice of Jiihad, the Taliban oblige: "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has both military as well as political objectives which are confined to Afghanistan. The Islamic Emirate does not wish to harm other countries from its soil and neither will it allow others use Afghan soil to pose a threat to the security of other nations!"
Some 5,000 US troops are in Jordan this week to participate in the multi-national exercise dubbed Eager Lion. The US forces include an Army unit with a Patriot missile battery, and the Navy's Expeditionary Strike Group 5. Other participating nations include the UK, France, Canada, Turkey, Bahrain, Iraq, Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Although the Pentagon insists the maneuvers have nothing to do with the conflict in neighboring Syria, it comes as Iran is reportedly sending 4,000 Revolutionary Guards to support President Bashar Assad in the fight against opposition forces. (Al-Arabiya, PKKH, June 16; Stars & Stripes, June 12; US Army press release, June 11)
On June 4 Bolivia's Justice Minister Cecilia Ayllon presided at a meeting in Sucre that brought together the country's leading jurists, including members of the Constitutional Tribunal, with traditional indigenous authorities from the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ), the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the Oriente of Bolivia (CIDOB), the Unitary Confederation of Campesino Workers of Bolivia (CSUTCB), and the Sindical Confederation of Intercultural Communities of Bolivia (CSCIB). At the meeting, aimed at hashing out a common position on indigenous autonomy as guaranteed by Bolivia's new constitution, conflict emerged over Ayllon's assertion that the guarantees should be applied to 36 ethnic groups. CONAMAQ's David Crispín asserted that there are actually 50 indigenous peoples and nationalities within Bolivia under the standards outlined in the constitution. CONAMAQ's legal authority Simón Antonio Cuiza offered to provide documentation for the claim to jurists and lawmakers, and work with them to truly establish Bolivia as a "plurinational state." (CONAMAQ via Facebook, June 7)
Vladimiro Huaroc, head of Peru's National Office of Dialogue and Sustainability (ONDS), weighed in on the controversy over the country's new Prior Consultation Law June 14, in comments published in the official newspaper El Peruano. "There are many sectors that want the government to execute these actions as soon as possible, and we do not understand the trouble," he wrote. Seeming to address assertions by President Ollanta Humala that the law should not apply in the country's sierras, Huaroc invoked Peru's responsibilities under ILO Convention 169 and stated, "Probably, there are sectors that are not adequately informed" about the government's responsibilities to indigenous communities. "Prior consultation means informing the population; the Executive must do everything possible so that communities know in detail the economic processes that will be realized."
Jorge Merino, chief of Peru's Ministry of Energy and Mines, responded on June 10 to reports in the media that the controversial gold project at Conga, in northern Cajamarca region, has been cancelled. The site, an extension of Newmont Mining's giant Yanacocha complex, remains under occupation by local campesinos, and clashes with police troops there have become frequent. "The information I have from the company is that they are making re-adjustments in Yanacocha and Conga," Merino said. "In agreement with the workers, there has been a reduction in the order of 50 workers who will be relocated, but I strongly deny that there is a position that Conga has intentions to leave. Conga continues... I have spoken with functionaries of Newmont, and the project is going ahead."
Guatemala's President Otto Pérez Molina said he is considering imposing a state of emergency in Salcajá, Quetzaltenango department, after an armed attack on a substation of the National Civil Police (PNC) left eight officers dead and their commander abducted June 14. Authorities said the slain officers were disarmed, made to face down on the ground, and then shot them in the head, execution-style. Pérez Molina attributed the attack to drug gangs operating in the area, with possible links to Mexican criminal networks such as the Sinaloa Cartel or Los Zetas. Jorge Santos of the International Center for Human Rights Research (CIDH), set up to secure political rights after Guatemala's civil war, said he hoped "this terror will not lead to greater levels of social control by the executive."
Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega and Chinese business magnate Wang Jing on June 14 formally sealed a pact granting Wang exclusive rights to build a multi-billion-dollar inter-oceanic canal through the Central American nation—the night after the country's National Assembly, dominated by Ortega's Sandinista Front, voted up Law 840, a bill approving the project, by 61-25. Wang's HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. will start with a study to determine whether the project is viable. Under the plan, the company would have a 50-year contract to develop and run the canal, with Nicaragua receiving a minority share of any profits. Ortega pledges the project will eradicate poverty in the country, one of the hemisphere's poorest. "This is a historic day for Nicaragua... a day of fulfilling prophecies and realizing dreams," said first lady Rosario Murillo, during the nationally televised ceremony. Murillo called it a "day of miracles" and said the canal project represents a "prophecy of prosperity for Nicaraguan families."
At least three soldiers were killed as Libyan Special Forces clashed with armed men in Benghazi June 15—a week after fighting killed more than 30 in the eastern port city. The Special Forces' Facebook page said an "outlaw" band attacked their headquarters. The attackers were apparently hundreds strong, in civilian clothes but some wearing veils over their faces. Two days earlier, a bomb exploded outside the building of Libya al-Hurra TV in the city, causing some damage but no casualties. Suspicion in the attacks has fallen on members of the Libyan Shields, a militia that serves as an auxiliary to the "official" armed forces. Spokesman for the army chief of staff Ali al-Sheikhi described the Libyas Shields as "a reserve force under the Libyan army," speaking to Libya's Lana news agency.
Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) this week each broke a two-month silence, releasing new propaganda messages that seem to indicate that a dispute between the two franchises has been settled by the terrorist network's overall "emir," Ayman al-Zawahiri. Nusra stopped posting videos and messages online through its official media arm, the Manara al-Baydha' Media Foundation, after the dispute broke out in April. The new releases maintain the original "branding" of the two organizations, despite reports of a merger instigated by ISI.
Egypt's foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, vowing not to give up "a single drop of water from the Nile," said June 16 he will go to Addis Ababa to discuss a giant dam that Ethiopia has started building in defiance of Cairo's objections. "No Nile—no Egypt," he said at a press conference. Last week, Ethiopia summoned the Egyptian ambassador after politicians in Cairo were shown on TV calling for military action or supporting Ethiopian rebels. Ethiopia says the $4.7 billion Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile will eventually provide 6,000 megawatts of power. Egypt was apparently caught by surprise when Ethiopia started diverting the Blue Nile to begin construction last month.
For all the hoopla about North Korea, a far more significant threat on the Asian continent is getting virtually no coverage: the nuclear arms race between China and Pakistan on one side and India on the other. Quartz magazine reported June 3 that China is the only "internationally sanctioned" nuclear weapon power currently increasing its stockpile. Beijing added about 10 warheads to its arsenal over the past year, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). But the key phrase here is "internationally sanctioned," as China is one of the five nuclear nations "grandfathered in" by Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), along with the US, Russia, UK and France (although these are obliged by the NPT to seek disarmament, as is frequently forgotten). A June 16 interview with SIPRI researcher Phillip Schell in the Times of India reveals that the problem isn't just China—India and Pakistan similarly boosted their arsenals by about 10 warheads each over the past year...
The Court of Cassation of Argentina, the highest criminal court, sentenced former president Carlos Menem to seven years on June 14 for illegal weapons sales to Croatia and Ecuador during his presidency. Now-senator Menem pleaded innocence, claiming that the weapons were intended for Panama and Venezuela but were stolen and sold to parties that violated the country's peace agreements (PDF) and UN embargoes. The lower court initially acquitted Menem and 17 other defendants last year on a series of charges. On appeal, however, the Court of Cassation sentenced 12 of those defendants to prison time and remanded the case in light of what is described as "overwhelming evidence." Menem, now 82, receives immunity as a public servant. The court urged his fellow representatives to strip him of this privilege, but recent scandals involving his colleagues may make it difficult for a majority of senators to establish that precedent. Furthermore, under Argentina law, all prisoners over 70 have the right to serve penal time at home. Thus, even if the senate does relinquish Menem's immunity, he will most likely never serve time behind bars.