Central America
Costa Rica protest

Student strikes shake Costa Rica

A mass student protest filled the streets of San José, opposing new budgetary terms being imposed on Costa Rica’s public universities. The demonstration, which was also attended by staff and even rectors of the universities, was called after the Ministry of Finance ordered an increase in the percentage of the Special Fund for Higher Education (FEES) that goes to capital expenditures—which effectively means a cut in salaries for teachers and staff. Banners read “The education of our children is not up for negotiation” and “Hands off the UCR,” a reference to the University of Costa Rica. University authorities and students did meet for several hours with government officials after the march in search of an agreement, while thousands of supporters maintained a vigil outside the presidential palace. President Carlos Alvarado, elected as leftist last year but now accused of imposing a neoliberal program, was among those who met with the protest leaders. (Photo: Poder Popular)

Southern Cone
Santiago protest

Econo-protests from Santiago to Beirut

A state of emergency has been declared in Chile following protests that initially erupted over transit fare hikes in Santiago but quickly escalated to an uprising over general economic agony. Youth have blocked thoroughfares, burned buses and ransacked shops, while whole families have filled the streets in a nationwide cacerolazo—beating pots and pans to express outrage over the high cost of living. Protesters have similarly taken the streets, erected barricades and clashed with police in Lebanon, where a state of “economic emergency” has been declared. Again, demonstrations were initially sparked by government plans to impose a tax on text messaging, but protests have continued even after the tax was rescinded in response to the upsurge of popular anger. Demonstrators have revived the slogan from the 2011 Arab Revolution, “The people demand the fall of the regime.” (Photo: KaosEnLaRed)

The Andes
Quito protest

Ecuador: celebration as protesters score victory

Celebrations broke out across Ecuador after President Lenin Moreno agreed to overturn Decree 883, which would have eliminated fuel subsidies. Moreno’s capitulation followed 10 days of nationwide protests that left at least eight dead, hundreds injured and more than 1,000 detained. Moreno and protest leaders are to open a dialogue to find other means to cut Ecuador’s public spending. (Photo: CONAIE via Twitter)

Europe
Free them all

Catalan independence leaders get prison terms

Spain’s Supreme Court ordered imprisoned nine Catalan political leaders—with sentences ranging from nine to 13 years for the crimes of sedition and misuse of public funds—over their role in organizing the 2017 independence referendum. The sentences are each followed by equal periods of absolute ineligibility for public office. Oriol Junqueras—the former vice-president of Catalonia and the highest-ranking of the defendants—received the longest sentence. The sentences sparked protests in the region, with assembled crowds causing flights to be canceled at Barcelona’s airport. Police used rubber bullets to regain control of the facility. Demonstrators also gathered at Barcelona’s Plaça San Jaume, the seat of the Catalan government, and erected barricades across roads and rail lines. Catalonia’s feared anti-riot force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, has been mobilized to clear the streets. (Image via Twitter)

East Asia

Hong Kong: will protests spread to mainland?

Protesters are rejecting what they call Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s “fake concession,” with the demonstrations now in their fourteenth week. Contrary to widespread media reports, Lam’s supposed “withdrawal” of the extradition bill is actually only a promise to withdraw it when the Legislative Council reconvenes—with no date yet set. Lam refused the other four demands of the current unprecedented mass movement. ChinaWorker.info, a Hong Kong-based website that supports independent labor struggles in China and is now supporting the protest movement in the city, warns of an imminent escalation in repression: “What the CCP most fears is showing weakness towards Hong Kong protesters, which will damage the dictatorship’s authority and in turn inspire the mainland masses to rise up and fight, following the example of Hong Kong masses.” (Photo: ChinaWorker.info)

East Asia

Protest shakes Hong Kong… and Wuhan: solidarity?

Days before protesters stormed and occupied the Hong Kong legislative chamber, some 10,000 marched in the central Chinese city of Wuhan to oppose construction of a waste incinerator. The Wuhan protesters chanted “Give us back our clean environment”—before being set upon by the riot police, leading to many arrests. Solidarity with pro-democratic forces on the mainland is what holds out hope for restraining Beijing’s dictatorial agenda for Hong Kong. Yet some Hong Kong protesters instead look to former colonial power Britain for protection—or promote a hardcore “localist” stance that seeks independence rather than a democratic China. (Photo  of Wuhan protest via RFA)

Central America

Central America climate crisis fuels migration

Commentators have noted the roots of the current massive migration from Central America in the political economy of the free trade order. The US-led repression and counter-insurgency in the isthmus in the 1980s allowed the imposition of “free trade” or “neoliberal” regimes in the generation since then—culminating in the passage of CAFTA. This, in turn, has exacerbated the expropriation from the peasantry of their traditional lands by agribusiness and agro-export oligarchies. But this dynamic is now being augmented by factors related to political ecology—the degradation of the land itself due to climate destabilization. (Photo: IOM)

East Asia

Hong Kong: ‘leaderless’ protests pledge no retreat

Despite limited victories, leaders of the declaredly “leaderless” protest movement that has brought hundreds of thousands to the streets in Hong Kong pledge to keep up the pressure. The unpopular bill that would have allowed extradition to mainland China has now been suspended. But six student unions issued a call to escalate protest actions if the government does not respond to their outstanding demands in the coming days. These include that the extradition bill be formally withdrawn, that all charges be dropped against arrested protesters, and investigations be opened into cases of police brutality. Protesters are also demanding that Chief Executive Carrie Lam step down. (Photo: HKFP)

East Asia

Podcast: Memories of Tiananmen Square

In Episode 34 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Rose Tang, veteran journalist, activist, artist, and survivor of the Tiananmen Square massacre. In an in-depth oral history, Tang recounts her experiences as a student leader in Beijing in the spring of 1989, her witness to the June 4 repression, and her work as a public voice for Tiananmen Square survivors. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo via Rose Tang)

Greater Middle East

Dozens detained at Istanbul May Day march

Turkish police detained at least 100 people who attempted to stage a May Day demonstration in Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square, where protests are traditionally banned. Several thousand more gathered in the city’s Bakirkoy district, for a permitted march organized by the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK). In the permitted march was a large Kurdish contingent, led by women wearing white scarves to demand the release of political prisoners. The women were mostly mothers and relatives of followers of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and People’s Democratic Congress (HDK) who have been imprisoned over the course of the current crackdown on political dissent in Turkey. (Photo: ANF)

East Asia

Umbrella activists convicted in Hong Kong

Nine leading activists of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement were convicted under colonial-era “public nuisance” laws, concluding the city’s most politically charged trial in years. The nine may face up to seven years in prison. They include the famous “Occupy Trio”—legal scholar Benny Tai, sociology professor Chan Kin-man and Rev. Chu Yiu-ming. The Umbrella Movement was the biggest pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong’s history, with thousands occupying the city’s central districts for several weeks between September and December 2014.

Europe

Car industry behind Hungary’s ‘slave law’

In the biggest demonstrations since the fall of communism, thousands have repeatedly taken to the streets in Hungary to oppose Prime Minister Viktor Orba''s controversial "slave law." The square outside the parliament building in Budapest was massively occupied Dec. 12 as the law was approved. It was subsequently signed by President Janos Ader. Orban said the law scraps "silly rules," and will help those who want to earn more by working more. In fact, the law will allow employers to demand workers put in up to 400 extra hours per year of overtime, compared with the current limit of 250. Meanwhile, payment for this overtime may be delayed by up to three years. Local media in Hungary report that Orban pushed through the law in a bid to lure German auto-maker BMW to invest a billion euros in a new plant in Debrecen, Hungary's second city, situated in the poorest region of the country, the northeast. The move is portrayed as intended to undercut labor costs in Slovakia, where BMW was initially considering investment. (Photo: KaosEnLaRed)