Southern Cone
Italy

Calabrian connection in Brazil narco busts

Brazilian police arrested a man accused as a leader of the notorious First Capital Command drug gang, who was named as a top contact in South America of southern Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta crime network. “Andre do Rap,” detained in San Paolo in an operation that included US DEA agents, is said to have overseen massive cocaine exports to Europe via Italy’s southern region of Calabria. In July, police arrested two Italian nationals at a luxury seaside apartment in Sao Paulo, who were also said to be ‘Ndrangheta operatives. A month earlier, accused top ‘Ndrangheta figure Rocco Morabito escaped from a prison in Uruguay—angering Rome, which had been awaiting his extradition. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

The Caribbean
Esequibo

Venezuela revives claim to Guyana territory

Venezuelan prosecutors finally announced charges against opposition leader Juan Guaidó for “high treason”—but not for colluding with foreign powers to overthrow the government. No, Guaidó is to face charges for his apparent intent to renounce Venezuela’s claim to a disputed stretch of territory that has been controlled by neighboring Guyana since the end of colonial rule. The Esequibo region covers 159.000 square kilometers—nearly two-thirds of Guyana’s national territory. The old territorial claim languished for generations—until  2015, when ExxonMobil announced discovery of a big offshore deposit in waters off the Esequibo coast. This came just as Venezuela was sliding into crisis, providing President Nicolás Maduro with a nationalist rallying cry. (Map via El Tiempo Latino)

The Andes

Ex-FARC commander calls for return to arms

Top FARC leaders Iván Marquez and Jesús Santrich appeared in a YouTube video, alongside some 20 other veteran fighters, all in battle fatigues, to announce they are returning to guerilla insurgency and will launch “a new stage of armed struggle.” Reading the manifesto, Marquez charged that “the state has betrayed the Havana Accords,” the 2016 peace deal under which the FARC laid down arms. “We announce to the world that the second Marquetalia has begun,” he said, referring to the village where the FARC was founded in 1964. He said they would seek to join forces both with the FARC “dissidents” who have remained in arms despite the peace deal, as well as the rival National Liberation Army (ELN). (Photo via La Vanguardia)

The Andes

US ‘committed’ to ‘dismantle’ Colombia’s ELN

The United States government is “committed” to “dismantle” Colombia’s remaining significant guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), federal prosecutor Zachary Terwilliger said. The US attorney for the Eastern District of Virgina made the comment after he and six other federal prosecutors met with President Ivan Duque on a visit to Bogotá to discuss cooperation “to fight narco-terrorism.” Terwilliger said the Colombian government “counts on the full support of the United States Department of Justice in the common cause to destabilize, decimate and ultimately dismantle the ELN.” The guerilla group has been active since 1964 and is currently believed to have 4,000 fighters. The ELN was engaged in peace talks with Duque’s predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, but the talks were suspended by Duque when he took office a year ago. (Photo: Colombia Reports)

The Andes
ADEPCOCA

Internecine cocalero violence in Bolivia

Violent tensions are flaring in Bolivia’s capital between rival factions of one of the country’s coca-grower unions, which oversee sales to the legal market. Clashes broke out in early August between two factions of the Departmental Association of Coca Producers of La Paz (ADEPCOCA)—one loyal to President Evo Morales and his ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), the other to imprisoned union leader Franklin Gutiérrez. The former group staged “parallel” elections for new union leaders in late July, but the latter refuses to recognize the poll, and demands the release of Gutiérrez and other imprisoned unionists. The first clashes came as MAS supporters besieged the ADEPCOCA headquarters in La Paz, demanding that the Gutiérrez supporters surrender the offices.  (Photo: La Razón)

North America

SCOTUS overturns injunction on border wall funds

The Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision that blocked President Trump from using $2.5 billion from military accounts to build a portion of his pledged border wall. The order lifts an injunction from a federal judge in a case brought by the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition challenging Trump’s February declaration of a national emergency to access more than $8 billion to build the wall. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month declined to lift that injunction. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority found that the administration had “made a sufficient showing at this stage” that the challengers do not have standing to block the diversion of the funds. (Photo via Jurist)

Southeast Asia

Duterte defiant in ‘crimes against humanity’

Both UN human rights experts and Amnesty International are accusing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte of “crimes against humanity” in his drug war. Calls for an international investigation were endorsed by a vote of the UN Human Rights Council. But Duterte remains intransigent and refuses to recognize the International Criminal Court. Amid growing international scruitny, his police killed a three-year-old girl in a drug raid. Duterte’s former police chief, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, now a political ally in the Senate, dismissed the incident with the comment “Shit happens,” fueling further outrage. (Photo via Rappler)

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)