International News

Mudslides in Freetown, Sierra Leone killed about 1000 people on August 14, mostly inhabitants of the urban slums in the hills above the capital.

Since the start of the year, 76 women have died while giving birth in Lara state — the highest rate of any state in Venezuela and three times the rate for the rest of the country.

Speaking about the situation to Green Left Weekly, Katrina Kozarek from the Women’s Movement for Life in Barquisimeto, the capital of Lara, explained: “Both the doctors and nurses treat poor, black women really badly. They slap their bottoms, call them filthy names and say ‘stop screaming because you didn’t scream like that when you were having sex’.”

Using the Metro Cable car system built under former president Hugo Chavez, our solidarity delegation to the South American nation, organised by Venezuelanalysis.com, travelled high up into the mountain to the neighbourhood of San Agustin.

The Metro Cable system, the first of its kind in Venezuela, was inspired by a visit by Chavez to Austria where he saw dozens of chairlifts going up and down the mountains.

US President Donald Trump made the unprecedented threat to “totally destroy” North Korea, not in a tweet or off the cuff remark, but in a written speech before the United Nations General Assembly on September 20. No other leader of a country has ever stood before the UN and openly stated its intention to destroy another country. 

Coupled with Trump’s earlier threat to rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea, this threat must be seen as one that at least includes the possibility of a nuclear attack.

The flags of the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) and Shengal Women's Units (YJS) were planted in the city centre of Raqqa, which had been the capital city of ISIS, on September 14.

ISIS still controls about 20% of the city, but the symbolic importance of this event reflects a very real change in the situation in Syria.

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales used his September 19 speech to the United Nations General Assembly to condemn terrorism, abusive market practices and wars in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Libya as well as the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

In his address to the 72nd UN General Assembly in New York, Morales also sent his solidarity to the people of Mexico after the 7.1 earthquake and Caribbean nations devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The earthquake that hit on September 19 made my whole apartment move from side to side, like a tiny old ship caught on reckless waves. I live in the old part of central Puebla, just 51 kilometres from the epicentre.

After the quake, I watched as crowds gathered in the middle of the street — normally a busy fish and vegetable market. Children were crying, people were a bit shaken, but they seemed okay. The next morning, I walked around the city, observing the large cracks and broken corners on some of the most historic and beautiful buildings.

About 250,000 people joined 400 protests in cities and towns across France on September 21, the General Confederation of Workers (CGT) said, in the second round of mass protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s anti-worker laws.

This was about half the number of people who mobilised for the first round of protests and strikes on September 12. The protests came the day before a meeting of the Council of Ministers to ratify five ordinances, which will undermine the rights of workers and their unions.

Forty-one Spanish Civil Guard raids on Catalan government-related buildings and private homes on September 20 led to the arrest of 13 high-level Catalan government officials and harvested a lot of “suspect material” for the prosecutors charged with stopping Catalonia’s October 1 independence referendum. However, the raid have provoked a mass revolt in response.

The haul included 10 million ballot papers stored in a printery warehouse in the central Catalan town of Bigues i Riells.

Tamils and Muslims in Manaar, a town in the north of Sri Lanka, rallied on September 5 in solidarity with the Rohingya people of Myanmar. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been forced to flee Myanmar in recent weeks due to military attacks.

Many Tamils and Muslims see similarities between the situations in Sri Lanka and Myanmar. In both countries, Buddhism is the dominant religion and Buddhist monks have helped incite hatred against religious and ethnic minorities.

Britain’s main trade union confederation, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), held its 149th annual conference in Brighton on September 10-13. The gathering brought together hundreds of leaders, organisers, delegates and activists from more than 50 TUC-affiliated trade unions.

The conference discussed and adopted motions of support and campaign plans to oppose the austerity measures of the Conservative-Democratic Unionist Party government of Prime Minister Theresa May.

France’s militant unions held the first major day of protest on September 12 against the ordinances introduced by the government to undermine the country’s labour laws.

Their protests were seen as the start of the campaign to defend workers’ rights. It served as a major test for the capacity of the movement to mobilise working people while France’s unions are divided as to how to respond to the attacks.

In 1713-14, it took the troops of Spain’s Borbon monarchy 14 months to take Barcelona and end Catalan self-rule. Three centuries later, Catalonia is again under siege, this time from the central Spanish People’s Party (PP) government.

Under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish state is concentrating all its firepower on stopping the Catalan government’s October 1 independence referendum, where Catalan citizens will be asked to vote on whether “Catalonia should become an independent state in the form of a republic”.

Mass protests and strikes have erupted across Rojhilat (Iranian Kurdistan) since September 3, following the killing of two kolbers (cross-border porters who transport merchandise) by Iranian border guards the previous day. The Iranian regime has responded by militarising the area, attacking protests with security forces and pro-government thugs and making mass arrests.

Several Iranian Kurdish organisations and political parties have supported the uprising. They have called for unity between political forces in Rojhilat and with other progressive movements in Iran.

The devastating hurricanes that hit the southern US and the Caribbean, and the catastrophic flooding in South Asia, have highlighted the worsening reality of global warming-related extreme weather.

The worsening reality of  weather-related disasters was explicitly recorded in a little-noticed United Nations Office for Disaster risk reduction report The Human Cost of Weather-Related Disasters: 1995-2015. The report noted that both the number of extreme-weather events, and the number of people affected, has risen dramatically over the past two decades.

Hurricane Irma has just passed through the Caribbean, in a procession of tragedies that have destroyed lives and left material damage behind.

In response to this natural disaster, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sent humanitarian aid to Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda (with 95% of buildings in Barbuda destroyed), and the French colony of Saint Martin on September 10.

Residents of the Caribbean islands of Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy and the British Virgin Islands have been left with little support to face the humanitarian crisis caused by Hurricane Irma.

According to the latest count, nine people died on the French administered side of Saint Martin and hundreds more were injured after Irma hit on September 5. About 1 million people have had no water or electricity since the hurricane hit with winds of 250 kilometres an hour, destroying around 95% of the French side of Saint Martin.

Cuban brigades and volunteers are continuing the arduous task of rebuilding after the damaging and deadly effects of Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms to hit the region that left dozens dead and caused widespread damage.

Described by meteorologists as one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the Caribbean in a century, Irma left a path of widespread destruction in Cuba and several north-eastern Caribbean Islands, especially Barbuda.

Travelling past El Calvario Park, just a few blocks from the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, we see a familiar image: an outline of late former president Hugo Chavez’s eyes, painted across several stairs.

This image can be seen all over Caracas. The government of President Nicholas Maduro has converted it into a recognisable trademark, much like the iconic image of Che Guevara that is splashed across T-shirts, flags and walls the world over.

With the Venezuelan right-wing opposition in disarray after failing to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro through violent protest, and divided in the face of the upcoming October 15 regional elections, the frontline of the battle for Venezuela’s future has shifted outside its borders.

US singer-songwriter and activist David Rovics wrote the following post on his blog while the US was hit with a range of extreme weather events at the same time.

As Barbuda, part of the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, reels from having almost the entirety of its infrastructure and 95% of its homes destroyed due to Hurricane Irma, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has rejected a moratorium proposal to discuss the island's US$3 million dollar debt.

In his September 2 article “Responding on Sanders and reforming the Democrats”, Barry Sheppard fundamentally mischaracterises the position I outlined in “Socialists and Bernie Sanders”. I specifically did not argue in favour of the far left in the US trying to “reform” the Democratic Party.

Nathan is a young London-based activist who has joined the British Labour Party as a supporter of the platform of socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn. A student who is part of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and a member of Socialist Resistance, Roberts was recently in Australia for the Radical Ideas conference in Melbourne organised by Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance over August 18-20.

Filipino socialist group, the Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), released the statement slightly abridged below on September 3 after the Australian government announced to it would send special forces to work with the murderous Rodrigo Duterte regime in Mindanao in the name of the “war on terror”.

***
The PLM demands that the Australian government withdraw the two Australian air force Orion spy planes participating in combat since June in Marawi, Mindanao, and abandon plans announced by Australian government ministers to send special forces.

The strike at two branches of McDonald’s in Britain was “just the start”, Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell said on September 4. Speaking at a rally outside Parliament the day before, the shadow chancellor hailed the striking workers as an “absolute inspiration”.

Workers at the burger giant’s restaurants in Cambridge and Crayford, south-east London, downed aprons in protest at the harassment of workers and the victimisation of union members.

More than 100 community and social activists were assassinated in Colombia between January 1 and August 18 this year, according to a new report released by the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (Indepaz). The report showed that a further 194 activists received death threats during this same time.

The report also found that 12 members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were assassinated between April 14 and August 17, as were 11 relatives of FARC members.

Colombia’s communist army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), relaunched itself as a political party on September 1 at a concert for “reconciliation and peace” in Bolivar Square, Bogota.

The guerrilla movement, which fought one of the longest civil wars in history until agreeing to a ceasefire with the government last year, confirmed its new name the day before at the end of its five-day congress.

It is now known as the Revolutionary Alternative Forces of the Commons, which will allow it to retain the FARC acronym.

More than 100,000 people filled the Plaza de Mayo in the country’s capital, Buenos Aires, on September 1 to demand the reappearance with life of indigenous rights activist Santiago Maldonado. The rally was held to mark a month since 28-year-old Maldonado was last seen.

Maldonado had been participating in a protest with a group of indigenous Mapuche people on August 1 in Chubut province, in Argentina’s iconic Patagonia region. The protest was repressed by Border Force officers, who witnesses allege were seen dragging Maldonado into a van.

At the press conference to announce his run for president last year, Donald Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as “drug dealers, criminals, rapists” who must be stopped by “building a wall”.

Since taking office, Trump has continued to reiterate that message through policy initiatives designed to further degrade the quality of life for undocumented workers and their families. The overtly racist targeting of migrant and immigrant people by Trump has excited the far-right, and emboldened their efforts to organise, mobilise on a national scale, and terrorise working class communities of colour. 

But Trump and a re-energised far right did not appear in a vacuum.

The unthinkable possibility of nuclear war is once again in the headlines after US officials reacted with shrill threats to the North Korean government claim to have tested its most powerful nuclear bomb yet.

This is the latest escalation in a game of nuclear chicken, with calculated provocations on all sides. But to judge from the mainstream media, it is only North Korea’s Kim Jung-un who is driving the world to the brink of a nightmare.

This is false.

Flying into Caracas, the plane was full of middle class Venezuelans travelling home from Miami. On board, no one spoke to the passenger next to them for fear of finding out they were on the opposite side of the political divide.

In highly polarised Venezuela, these things are best left unsaid.

“The US is doing the same thing as it did with the economic blockade on Cuba, to try and suffocate the Venezuelan economy” explained Williams Camacaro, a long-time Venezuelan grassroots activist based in New York.

Speaking to Green Left Weekly in Caracas, Camacaro said “The sanctions will cause a lot of difficulties for Venezuela”, but “the reality is that a lot of time has passed since [the blockade was first imposed on Cuba]. Many things have changed.”

During the early hours of August 25, some 20 to 30 police posts were attacked in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships in the north of Rakhine State in Myanmar (also known as Burma). Twelve police were killed along with 16 attackers.

Responsibility for these attacks was later claimed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

In the two weeks since, the Myanmar military’s response has been brutal, widespread and indiscriminate. While accurate figures are not available, between 400 (military’s estimate), and “around a thousand” (United Nations estimate) Rohingya have been killed by the army.

Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim group who have lived for centuries in the majority Buddhist Myanmar.

Many Rohingya came to Myanmar from what is now Bangladesh during the British colonial period (1820s to 1940s) to expand rice cultivation in Rakhine State.

About 1 million Rohingya live in Myanmar, mostly in Rakhine State, making up some 2% of the country’s population and about 30% of the state’s population.

The huge devastation, death and misery that Hurricane Harvey wreaked upon Texas and Louisiana has been seen around the world.

Meanwhile, fresh havoc is being wreaked upon the Caribbean and the US’s south-east by Hurricane Irma. In less reported news, more than 1400 people have been killed in recent weeks by horrific flooding in South Asia. The consequences of such disasters caused by extreme weather reveal the intersection of crises caused by the capitalist system.

Despite the clear signals that President Donald Trump would drop the axe on a program that protects unauthorised immigrant young adults from deportation, the announcement by Attorney-General Jeff Sessions provoked an immediate and passionate backlash from the 800,000 young immigrants who benefited from the program, as well as their supporters.

The decade-old Israeli blockade on Gaza has dramatically undermined the coastal strip’s agriculture sector.

The electricity crisis has exacerbated this problem. With electricity available for only three to four hours a day, most productive sectors in Gaza are debilitated to the point of paralysis.

Australian surf life savers once used the beach in Gaza to put on an impressive display of their skills for soldiers serving in Palestine. Surviving British footage from about 75 years ago shows a pristine and spectacular setting which could be any beach, anywhere in the world.

But now Gaza, subjected to a near-total blockade by Israel since 2007, is best described as the world’s largest, open air prison.

Half-a-million people marched in the Catalan capital of Barcelona on August 26 to express the profound desire in Catalan society to stay tolerant, open and un-militarised in the face of the August 17-18 terror attacks on Barcelona’s Rambla and in the seaside town of Cambrils.

This was partly because the attacks — claimed by Islamic State and causing 15 deaths and up to 130 wounded — coincided with the tensest moments to date in the fight between the Catalan and Spanish governments over the planned October 1 referendum on Catalan independence.

Pages