New York City
High Mi Madre

Podcast: Voices of High Mi Madre

In Episode 35 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Emily Ramos, Pilar DeJesus and Kara Bhatti of the worker-owned marijuana consumer cooperative High Mi Madre, on their lobbying and activist efforts in support of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, still pending in the final countdown to the close of the New York State legislative session. They especially emphasize the demand for “Day One Equity” with cannabis legalization in the Empire State—reparative justice and reinvestment in the communities that had for generations been criminalized and oppressed by cannabis prohibition. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo via High Mi Madre)

Mexico

Mexico rejects US drug war aid

Mexico’s new populist president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, announced that he is dropping out of the regional US-led drug enforcement pact, and will be turning down the aid package offered through the program, known as the Merida Initiative. “We don’t want armed helicopters,” he said, addressing Washington. Instead, he is proposing a dialogue with Washington on across-the-board drug decriminalization in both nations. Mexican lawmakers say they will pass a cannabis legalization bill by the end of the year. (Photo: El Txoro)

North America

Judge blocks emergency funding for Trump’s wall

A federal judge blocked construction of Donald Trump’s border wall, ruling that Trump cannot use a “national emergency” to take money from government agencies for the barrier. Judge Haywood Gilliam of the US District Court for Northern California ruled that the diversion of the money likely oversteps a president’s statutory authority. The injunction specifically limits wall construction projects in El Paso, Tex., and Yuma, Ariz. (Photo via Jurist)

Mexico

Mexico remilitarizes drug enforcement

Despite his boast to have “ended” the drug war and pledge to explore cannabis legalization, Mexico’s new populist president is seeking to create a special anti-drug “National Guard” drawing from the military and police forces. Use of the military in drug enforcement was already shot down by the Supreme Court, but President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is going around the judiciary by changing the constitution. This plan is moving rapidly ahead—and meanwhile the military is still being sent against campesino cannabis growers and small traffickers.

Mexico

El Chapo guilty: Mexico’s narco-wars rage on

Notorious narco-lord "Chapo" Guzmán was convicted by a federal jury in New York and faces life in prison. But violence in Mexico has only escalated since his capture. Few media accounts have noted how Chapo and his Sinaloa Cartel rose as militarized narcotics enforcement escalated in Mexico—a trajectory mirrored by the cartels' move from dealing in cannabis to deadly white powders. (Photo: US Coast Guard via Cannabis Now)

Mexico

Mexico: AMLO declares drug war ‘over’ —but is it?

Already officially studying the possibility of cannabis legalization, Mexico's new populist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has now announced a formal end to the "war on drugs" that has only seemed to fuel the narco-violence over the past 10 years. However, military troops are still being mobilized for narcotics enforcement from Chiapas to Chihuahua—including marijuana eradication. (Photo: Sexenio)

North America

Legal challenge to Trump emergency declaration

A 16-state coalition filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, requesting the court to issue a judicial determination that Trump’s national emergency declaration over the southern border wall is unconstitutional. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the lawsuit, stating: “Unlawful southern border entries are at their lowest point in 20 years, immigrants are less likely than native-born citizens to commit crimes, and illegal drugs are more likely to come through official ports of entry. There is no credible evidence to suggest that a border wall would decrease crime rates.” (Photo via Jurist)

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)

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

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)

Planet Watch

Podcast: the dialectics of cannabis liberation

In Episode 24 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the historic strides toward liberation of the cannabis plant in 2018, from the four corners of the Earth. Yet under capitalism, every advance also opens new contradictions. With the rise of "corporate cannabis," traditional small growers in places like California's Emerald Triangle stand to be pushed off the market as Central Valley agribusiness gets in on the act. Burdensome regulations and heavy taxation have kept some growers on the black market—and big police raids in the Emerald Triangle have continued even after "legalization." High taxes on cannabis have also actually closed the legal space for California's "compassionate care" providers—those who make free or discounted medical marijuana available to the ailing. There are concerns about the corporate privatization of ancient cannabis landraces long grown by small cultivators around the world. Meanwhile, even as overall cannabis arrests have dropped under more tolerant laws and enforcement policies in many states and localities, the racial disparity in those arrests that continue (e.g. for public use) is unabated. In a positive development, California has passed a "cannabis equity" law to address such concerns. But even the federal Farm Bill that just legalized industrial hemp and cannabinoids derived from it irrationally keeps cannabinoids derived from "marijuana" (high-THC strains) illegal. Weinberg calls for challenging the "marijuana" stigma, recognizing that cannabis liberation is an urgent question of human rights and racial justice, and adopting a stance of permanent struggle in fighting for it. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Europe

Russia completes Crimea-Ukraine border wall

Russia completed a high-tech security fence along annexed Crimea's border with mainland Ukraine. The fence, more than 60 kilometers long, is topped with barbed wire and equipped with hundreds of sensors. Russia's FSB security agency called the fence a "boundary of engineering structures," and said it is necessary to prevent "infiltration attempts by saboteurs," also citing traffic in drugs, arms and other contraband. The statement boasted of "the most complicated system of alarm sensors in the Isthmus of Perekop," the stretch of land where annexed Crimea borders the Ukrainian mainland. (Photo via ??? ???????)