The Andes

Venezuela further opens oil sector to China

The Venezuelan government has announced an expansion of Chinese investment in the country’s oil industry, with the aim of increasing production by 120,000 barrels per day. The investment, placed at $3 billion, will underwrite the construction of a new oil blending plant inaugurated this month as the first part of the two-stage plan. The “Jose” plant, in Barcelona, Anzoátegui state, is to be run by Sinovensa, a joint venture 49% owned by the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and 51% by Venezuela’s PDVSA state oil company. The facility will blend extra-heavy grades from Venezuela’s Orinoco Oil Belt into the exportable Merey crude, primarily for Asian markets. (Photo via VenezuelAnalysis)

New York City

NYC: outrage over automotive terror —at last

Hundreds of bicyclists staged a “die-in” in New York’s Washington Square Park, expressing outrage over the spate of killings of cyclists on the city’s streets. Three deaths came in a one-week period, finally prompting demands for public action: Robyn Hightman, a 20-year-old bicycle messenger and track racer, was killed by a truck driver in Manhattan. Ernest Askew, 57, riding an e-bike in Brooklyn, was hit and killed by a teen driver. And Devra Freelander, 28, an artist, was killed by a cement truck driver, also in Brooklyn. Hightman was the 12th cyclist killed on New York City streets in 2019; 10 were killed in all of 2018. (Photo: Streetsblog)

The Amazon

Ecuador: oil lease threatens ‘uncontacted’ peoples

Ecuador’s Environment Ministry approved plans to drill for oil in a sensitive area of Yasuni National Park, where isolated or “uncontacted” indigenous peoples are believed to be living. The Ishpingo site is the last field of the controversial Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) project within the borders of the park. Ishpingo is the most contested of the three ITT fields, as it overlaps with the reserve’s Intangible Zone, created to protect two “uncontacted” communities of the Tagaeri and Taromenane peoples. (Photo via Mongabay)

North Africa

Libya: did Haftar bomb migrant detention center?

The UN is calling for an urgent investigation into the “outrageous” bombing of a migrant detention center at Tajoura, outside Libya’s capital Tripoli, which left at least 44 dead. Libya’s UN-recognized government issued a statement blaming the air-strike on warlord Khalifa Haftar, who has for months been besieging Tripoli. Already believed to be supported by France and Russia, he has now also apparently established contact with Washington. The White House admitted in April that President Trump had spoken by phone with Haftar and discussed “ongoing counter-terrorism efforts.”  (Photo via Libya Observer)

The Amazon

Peru: more indigenous protests over oil spills

A new rupture on the disaster-plagued North Peruvian Pipeline fouled local water sources that several indigenous communities depend on in Peru’s rainforest region of Loreto. The communities of Nuevo Progreso and Saramiriza are demanding emergency potable water deliveries. The rupture came days after indigenous protesters occupied the Bloc 192 oil-field, halting operations by Canadian company Frontera Energy. Protesters seized four tank batteries at the installation to press their demands for clean-up and reparations following the numerous spills in the area. (Photo: PetroPeru via Gestión)

Iran

Orwellian ironies of US Persian Gulf war moves

Amid alarmingly sketchy accounts of Iranian attacks on Saudi oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, Trump has dispacthed the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group to the Persian Gulf. An oil pipeline that runs across Saudi Arabia was also hit by drones, according to the kingdom’s energy ministry. Meanwhile, Iran-backed war crimes and “sectarian cleansing” in Syria and Iraq are safely invisible to the outside world. Well, oil matters; people do not. We already knew that. But adding to the Orwellian nature of it all—the US and Iran are on the same side in Syria and Iraq. De facto in the former (where the US has tilted to Assad, rhetoric notwithstanding), de jure in the latter (where Washington and Tehran alike openly back the Baghdad regime). Let’s hope that Trump’s mutuality of interest with the ayatollahs (however sinister) will compel both sides to retreat from the brink before they blunder into total disaster. As always, US war moves put the civil opposition in Iran in a more difficult position, making it easier for the regime to paint them as pawns of Washington. Any anti-war position must be clear on solidarity with the people of Iran, including in their democracy struggle—emphatically not with the regime. (Photo via Stars & Stripes)

Syria
SDF

Syrian Democratic Forces fire on Arab protesters

The final defeat of ISIS in Syria’s northeast has left many Arab-majority areas of the region under occupation by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—a situation obviously fraught with risk. Over the past weeks, protests have mounted in Arab villages across Deir ez-Zor province against the SDF, with residents demanding better services, employment and a greater role in decision-making. Finally, SDF fighters opened fire on protesters in the village of Shheil, killing one person. The protest came after an overnight raid in the village, in which SDF fighters besieged a neighborhood and killed six people. (Image via Rudaw)

The Caribbean

Venezuela crisis at issue in Haiti unrest

Thousands of Haitians filled the streets of Port-au-Prince and several provincial cities to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise on the anniversary of the 1986 ouster of long-ruling dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. Demonstrators also called for the arrest of officials responsible for the plundering of monies from the Venezuela-provided PetroCaribe fund over the past 10 years. At least two were reported dead in the protests, with vehicles burned, a police station attacked, some 40 arrested, and many wounded. Haiti faces a fast-deepening crisis, with hunger, unemployment and inflation all growing. Protesters are additionally angered by the government's vote with Washington in the OAS not to recognize the presidency of Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro. (Photo: Haiti Liberté)

The Amazon

Peru: emergency threatened over pipeline paralysis

Lizardo Cauper, president of Peru's alliance of Amazonian peoples, AIDESEP, issued an urgent call for authorities to open dialogue with indigenous communities in the northern region of Loreto rather than militarizing the area in response to mounting social conflicts and attacks on the North Peruvian Pipeline. Noting that the aging pipeline is in chronic disrepair, with repeated spills contaminating the rainforest, Cauper said: "We have made a call that, in place of militarization, they put in place a new pipeline. But it is not enough to have a new pipeline, but to respond to the demands of the people who are living around these oil activities." Regional authorities have called upon Lima to declare a state of emergency in response to paralysis of the pipeline, which delivers crude from rainforest oilfields over the Andes. (Photo: Andina)

Mexico

Oil and unrest in Zimbabwe, Mexico

World oil prices remain depressed despite an uptick this month, driven by the Venezuela crisis and fear of US-China trade war. Yet this month also saw Zimbabwe explode into angry protests over fuel prices. The unrest was sparked when the government doubled prices, in an effort to crack down on “rampant” illegal trading. Simultaneously, long lines at gas stations are reported across Mexico—again due to a crackdown on illegal petrol trafficking. Despite all the talk in recent years about how low oil prices are now permanent (mirrored, of course, in the similar talk 10 years ago about how high prices were permanent), the crises in Zimbabwe and Mexico may be harbingers of a coming global shock. (Photo via Amnesty International)

The Andes

Forgotten voices in Venezuela crisis

Trump, the great enthusiast for dictators, suddenly develops a touching concern with democracy in Venezuela, grasping at the opportunity for long-sought regime change. Predictably overlooked in the world media's Manichean view of the crisis are voices of Venezuela's dissident left that takes a neither/nor position opposed to both the regime and the right-wing leadership of the opposition. Also unheard are voices of indigenous dissent and resistance. In an episode that received little coverage, December saw protests in the remote Orinoco Basin after a leader of the Pemón indigenous people was killed in a confrontation with elite Military Counterintelligence troops. The military operation was ostensibly aimed at clearing the region of illegal mining—while the Pemón themselves had been protesting the mining. The indigenous leaders view the militarization of the region as intended to make way for corporate exploitation under the Orinoco Mineral Arc plan. (Photo: EcoPolitica Venezuela)

Africa

UN rights chief condemns Sudan repression

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on the government of Sudan to protect its people's rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in the face of mounting violence. Anti-government protests have swept across Sudan for weeks. Over 800 have been arrested, including "journalists, opposition leaders, protestors and representatives of civil society." The government has confirmed 24 deaths but other reports place the number at double that. There have also been reports of security forces following protesters into hospitals and firing tear-gas and live ammunition inside. (Photo via Sudan Tribune)