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 Amazon

Land-rights defender assassinated in Brazil

A social leader seeking restitution for local peasants displaced by a hydroelectric mega-project in the Brazilian Amazon was slain by unknown assailants in an attack on her home. Dilma Ferreira Silva, 47, was a leader of the Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (Movement of People Affected by Dams, MAB), founded after construction of the massive Tucuruí hydro project on the Río Tocantins. Built during Brazil’s military dictatorship, the project resulted in the forced displacement of some 30,000 local residents. She was slain along with her husband and a family friend when men arrived on motorcycles at their home in the settlement of Salvador Allende, Baião municipality, Pará state. The three were overpowered, tied up, and stabbed to death.

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)

Africa

Climate catastrophe in suffering Mozambique

A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, as the full scale of devastation from Cyclone Idai becomes clear. The World Meteorological Organization says Idai could become the worst tropical cyclone on record in the Southern Hemisphere. Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi fears that 1,000 people may have lost their lives in his country alone. The UN World Food Program warns of "a major humanitarian emergency that is getting bigger by the hour." And, as after similar "mega-storms" of recent years, the link to global climate destabilization is evident. "Cyclone Idai is a clear demonstration of the exposure and vulnerability of many low-lying cities and towns to sea-level rise as the impact of climate change continues to influence and disrupt normal weather patterns,” said Mami Mizutori, UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

Central America

Indigenous land-rights activist slain in Costa Rica

Sergio Rojas, a leader of the indigenous Bribrí people in Costa Rica, was slain in an attack by unknown gunmen at his home in the indigenous territory of Salitre, Puntarenas province. Rojas was president of the Association for the Development of the Indigenous Territory of Salitre and coordinator of Costa Rica's National Front of Indigenous Peoples (FRENAP). He was shot 15 times in the attack. The local conflict stems from a 1977 law that gave the Bribrí and Teribe peoples rights to 11,700 hectares of usurped lands but did not allocate funds to compensate non-indigenous farmers who already occupied those lands. In 2012, Rojas was shot at six times in an apparent assassination attempt. (Photo via Tico Times)

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)

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)