Palestine

Gaza invasion averted; West Bank land-grabs escalate

An Egyptian-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip took effect with no formal announcement, after two days of hostilities that saw the most extensive Israeli air-strike since 2014. Hidden from the headlines, the ongoing confiscation of Palestinian lands on the West Bank meanwhile continues. The day after the ceasefire, Israeli troops forced several Palestinian families to evacuate from their homes in the Jordan Valley, in order to make way for military training. Days before, Israeli bulldozers uprooted some 120 fruitful olive trees west of Ramallah, to pave a settler-only road through the area. A document said to outline Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” to end the Palestinian conflict calls for a reduced Palestinian state on lands not already appropriated by settlement blocs. The areas of the blocs are to expand, incorporating outlying settlements, and will remain under Israeli control—apparently amounting to a de facto annexation. (Photo: Ma’an)

The Amazon

Brazil high court ruling sparks indigenous protest

At their annual protest encampment in Brasilia, some 4,500 indigenous people from across Brazil marching on the Supreme Court building to oppose a recent ruling that could negatively impact demarcation of indigenous territory. The case concerned Provisional Measure 870, signed by President Jair Bolsonaro on his first day in office, shifting responsibility for indigenous reserve demarcations from FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous agency, to the Agriculture Ministry. MP 870 was challenged as unconstitutional, but Supreme Court Justice Roberto Barroso rejected that challenge—although he did agree that if the Agriculture Ministry failed to carry through with demarcation in future, further legal action could go forward at that time. During the three-day encampment, indigenous groups also protested Bolsonaro’s plan to open indigenous reserves to mining and agribusiness. The Free Land Encampment has been held in Brasilia every year since 2017. (Photo: Mongabay)

The Amazon

Violence escalates in Brazilian Amazon

In the last two weeks, Brazilian Amazonia has seen an alarming increase in targeted killings, with three massacres and at least nine deaths. The Catholic Church’s Pastoral Land Commission defines a massacre as the killing of three or more people. The most recent killings took place when military police attacked a landless peasants’ camp near the hamlet of Vila de Mocotó in Pará state. Days earlier, four were killed when hooded gunmen evicted a squatter camp at Seringal São Domingos, near the intersection of the borders of Acre, Amazonas and Rondônia states. Days before that, Dilma Ferreira Silva, a social leader with the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), her husband, and a friend, were killed by hooded motorcyclists in Baião municipality, Pará state.  (Photo via Earth Island Journal)

Palestine

Netanyahu pledges to annex West Bank territory

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to annex areas of the occupied West Bank ahead of the coming week’s Israeli Knesset elections. In an interview on Israeli Channel 12 TV, he was asked about plans to annex settlement blocs in the occupied territory, and responded: “Will we go to the next phase? The answer is yes. We will go to the next phase to extend Israeli sovereignty…” In a part of the interview seemingly reported in English only by the independent Palestinian Ma’an News Agency, Netanyahu also appeared to broach annexation of all Area C, the zone of mixed Israeli and Palestinian control, which covers 62% of the West Bank’s territory. Asked about the future status of Area C, he reportedly replied: “I promise that you will be surprised. I cannot talk about the plan, but Trump is a big friend and I doubt there will ever be any bigger friend than him.”

The Andes

Máxima Acuña case against Newmont Mining remanded

The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia revived the case by Máxima Acuña Atalaya de Chaupe and her family against the US-based Newmont Mining Company. The family of subsistence farmers from Peru's Cajamarca region sued Newmont in the United States for abuse at the hands of the company's security forces. A lower court had dismissed the case, saying it should be heard in Peru. The Appeals Court reversed that decision, citing Newmont's corruption of local courts there. The suit, Acuna-Atalaya v. Newmont Mining Corp, seeks to stop a pattern of harassment and physical abuse that the Chaupe family say they have suffered at the hands of Newmont personnel, which the family believes is aimed at usurpation of their plot of land at Tragadero Grande. (Photo: EarthRights International)

Mexico

Indigenous eco-activist slain in Morelos, Mexico

An indigenous environmental activist was killed in Mexico's south-central state of Morelos, three days ahead of a planned referendum on an energy development project that he opposed. Samir Flores Soberanes was a leader of the local Peoples in Defense of Land and Water Front and community radio station Amilzinko. He was slain by unknown gunmen in an attack at his home in the village of Amilcingo, Temoac municipality. He was a longtime figure in local opposition to the planned Huexca power plant and associated natural-gas pipeline, pushed by the government under the Morelos Integral Project. (Photo: Somos el Medio)

The Andes

Colombia sliding deeper into internal war

Under pressure to address the ongoing wave of targeted assassinations in Colombia, President Iván Duque for the first time spoke before the National Commission to Guarantee Security, formed by the previous government to address continuing violence in the country—which has only worsened since he took office last year. Duque said 4,000 people are now under the government's protection program for threatened citizens. But his office implied that the narco trade is entirely behind the growing violence. Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez told the meeting: "This great problem is derived from the 200,000 hectares of illicit crops that we have in Colombia." However, it is clear that the narco economy is but part of a greater nexus of forces that fuel the relentless terror—all related to protecting rural land empires and intimidating the peasantry. (Photo via Contagio Radio)

The Andes

Colombia: UN concern over political assassinations

Gilberto Valencia, a young Afro-Colombian cultural worker, became 2019's first casualty of political violence in Colombia, when a gunman opened fire on a New Years party he was attending in his village in Cauca region. As the death toll from around the country mounted over the following weeks, the UN Mission to Colombia  warned President Iván Duque that he must address "the issue of the assassinations of social leaders and human rights defenders." Colombia's official rights watchdog, the Defensoría del Pueblo, acknowledges that there was an assassination on average every two days in the country last year—a total of 172, and a rise of more than 35% over 2017.  (Photo via Caracol Radio)

Mexico

Zapatistas vow to oppose López Obrador

Speaking at a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of their New Year's Day 1994 uprising in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas, leaders of the Zapatista rebels pledged their opposition to Mexico's new left-populist president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Anger was particularly directed at the planned "Maya Train" project, which would link the tourist resort of Cancún on the Caribbean coast with the Palenque archeological site in Chiapas, spearheading a new thrust of tourism mega-development. At the ceremony, held at the rebel-controlled settlement of La Realidad and dubbed the "Meeting of the Networks of Resistance and Rebellion," thousands of supporters from across Mexico gathered to watch Zapatista troops march in formation—although wielding symbolic bastónes (staffs) rather than rifles. (Photo: Pozol)

The Amazon

Bolsonaro starts term with assault on indigenous

On his first day in office, President Jair Bolsonaro issued a measure taking away responsibility for indigenous land demarcation from the indigenous affairs agency, FUNAI, and handing it over to the Agriculture Ministry. In the same decree, Bolsonaro shifted authority over regularization of quilombos (Afro-Brazilian collective lands) from the agrarian reform institute, INCRA, to the Agriculture Ministry. The measure greatly weakens FUNAI, taking away its most important function. In practice, key areas of indigenous and quilombo policy will now be in the hands of agribusiness advocates—a long-time demand of the Bancada Ruralista (agribusiness lobby) in Congress. Bolsonaro is openly calling for abolition of Brazil's large indigenous reserves, a move with grave implications for the Amazon rainforest and global climate. (Photo: Kayapo women in Brazilian Amazon, via FUNAI)

The Andes

Colombia: ongoing state collaboration with paras?

The dark days of state collaboration with Colombia's murderous paramilitary groups were recalled with the arrest in New York of Javier Valle Anaya, former sub-director of Bogotá's Administrative Security Department (DAS), a now-disbanded intelligence agency that was found to be feeding information to the paras. Valle Anaya was detained on an immigration violation, but may face extradition to Colombia, where he is wanted in connection with the 2004 assassination of a human rights activist in Barranquilla. Ironically, the arrest comes just as a new scandal has emerged concerning an illegal network of chuzadas—Colombian slang for eavesdroppers. Retired National Police general Humberto Guatibonza was arrested in Bogotá, charged with running a chuzada ring that spied on labor activists—particularly members of the airline workers union, ACDAC. (Photo via Contagio Radio)