International News

Many things have been said about Venezuela, its leaders and its people; namely, the ability of its process to survive the historical challenges of the growing economic crisis and attacks from the political opposition.

Now is the time to stand in solidarity with Venezuela and really get to know its people and process.

Opposition groups in Venezuela have been waging an economic war similar to that perpetrated against former Chilean president Salvador Allende. Hoarding, smuggling and currency speculation have caused shortages of food and basic necessities and hardship, particularly for poorer people.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced at an International Workers’ Day rally on May 1 that he would convene a National Constituent Assembly in an attempt to resolve the country’s current political crisis.

The constituent assembly, which will be made up of delegates elected on a territorial basis and from among the country’s different social sectors, seeks to prove an electoral route out of the current impasse premised on national dialogue.

Venezuela has been rocked in recent weeks by almost daily protests and counter-protests, as right-wing opponents of socialist President Nicolas Maduro seek to bring down his government.

While the media portrays these events as a popular rebellion against an authoritarian government, supporters of the pro-poor Bolivarian revolution initiated by former president Hugo Chavez say the country is witnessing an escalation in what is an ongoing counter-revolutionary campaign seeking to restore Venezuela’s traditional elites in power and reverse the gains made by the poor majority under Chavez and Maduro.

It is official: solidarity and activism are, according to the Ukrainian government, criminal acts. It seems paradoxical, but it is true.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Petro Poroshenko has demanded the Italian government extradite members of the so-called Anti-Fascist Caravan (AFC), a group of activists who recently visited the separatist region of Donbass in eastern Ukraine.

Moon Jae-in, of the liberal Democratic Party, won South Korea’s May 9 presidential election with 41% of the vote, easily defeating his arch-conservative opponent Hong Jun-pyo, who won about 24%.

The elections took place after the impeachment of conservative president Park Geun-hye for her involvement in a huge corruption scandal. Park, from Hong’s right-wing Saenuri Party (renamed Liberty Korea Party in a bid to rebrand), was forced out by the huge “Candlelight Revolution”. Millions of Koreans mobilised in an ongoing series of candlelight protests to demand her impeachment.

The elections also took place in a context of the threat of war in the Korean Peninsula with US President Donald Trump’s administration ratcheting up tensions with North Korea.

Emmanuel Macron won the second round of the French presidential elections on May 7, receiving 58.21% of the vote compared to the 30.01% share for far-right National Front (FN) candidate Marine Le Pen.

Despite the apparently decisive victory, the vote signals continued political uncertainty in France fuelled by widespread disillusionment with France’s democracy. It raises questions as to whether Macron’s supporters, organised in a new centrist movement called En Marche!, will be able to form a working government out of legislative elections scheduled for late June.

Media coverage encouraged and inflamed Britain’s referendum campaign on whether to leave the European Union last year to make it the “most divisive, hostile, negative and fear-provoking” in British history, according to a new report.

King’s College London’s Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power (CMCP) analysed more than 15,000 articles published online by 20 national news outlets. It found the media coverage “acrimonious and divisive” and dominated by “overwhelmingly negative” reports about the consequences of migration to Britain.

Today, it is Timor-Leste that is giving the tutorial in politics. After years of trickery and bullying by Canberra, the people of Timor-Leste have demanded and won the right to negotiate before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) a legal maritime boundary and a proper share of the oil and gas.

Australia owes Timor Leste a huge debt — some would say, billions of dollars in reparations. Australia should hand over, unconditionally, all royalties collected since Evans toasted Suharto’s dictatorship while flying over the graves of its victims.

The huge Labour losses in the May 4 local council elections are just what the Labour Right was hoping for.

The left has to be crystal clear about what is happening here. There are many subsidiary factors, but the root of the Conservative Party's substantial gains – 500 seats won against about 400 losses for Labour – is the xenophobic nationalism of Brexit which the Tories have used ruthlessly.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and other ministers from the region kicked off a special session of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), on May 2 in San Salvador to discuss recent violence in the South American country.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro officially called for a national Constituent Assembly to be convened during a May Day march in Caracas on May 1. The call is a bid to bring an end to the political crisis between the national government and the opposition-held parliament.

Speaking to the hundreds of thousands of government supporters who took to the streets for International Workers’ Day, Maduro said he would invoke article 347 of the constitution to trigger the assembly, which will be responsible for re-drafting the 1999 Constitution. 

The full vote in the lower house of Brazil’s Congress on the government’s plan to reform the pension system will be delayed until the end of May, amid ongoing protests against it.

If passed, the controversial bill would cut benefits, raise social security contributions by civil servants and set a minimum retirement age of 65 years in a country where people work on average until 54 years.

More than 2000 Honduran campesinos have taken over 10 farms in La Lima belonging to the Tela Railroad Company, a successor to the dissolved United Fruit Company, La Prensa reported on May 3.

The campesinos, demanding better working conditions and health care from the company, vowed to indefinitely occupy the space until they take action.

Three times in recent months, a Honduran woman named Alma went to US officials at the border between Reynosa, Mexico and Hidalgo, Texas, to ask for asylum for herself and her three children. She had fled Honduras because her other child had been killed by gang members, and she brought documentation to prove it.

But three times she was told by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that she would have to wait in Mexico. In February, the family was kidnapped.

Afghan anti-war activist and feminist Malalai Joya sent the solidarity message below to a protest organised by Sydney Stop the War Coalition against the visit of US Vice President Mike Pence to Australia on April 29.

Joya was elected to Afghanistan’s National Assembly of Afghanistan from 2005 until early 2007. She was dismissed from her seat for denouncing the presence of warlords and war criminals in the Afghan Parliament.

At the same time as President Enrique Pena Nieto deports undocumented migrants trying to enter or pass through Mexico, his own party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), is under-paying migrants and refugees in its T-shirt factory.

The demands of the hunger strikers are for basic civil rights. There are 6500 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, including 300 children. About 500 are being held under “administrative detention” — meaning they are held without trial by court orders that can be renewed indefinitely.

Despite the scale of the hunger strike and huge popular support enjoyed by the prisoners and their campaign for “freedom and dignity”, Israel shows no signs of acceding to any of the prisoners’ demands to end their ill-treatment.

Leaders of Palestinian political party Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, released a document outlining their guiding principles at a press conference in the Qatari capital Doha on May 1.

Much coverage focused on the document’s acceptance of Israel’s 1967 boundary as the basis for establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The document also includes pronouncements on how Hamas views the roots of the conflict, the role of Palestinian resistance and its position towards Jewish people.

I’m not one of nature’s optimists at the best of times, and a rash of media headlines predicting a doomsday scenario for Labour on June 8 aren’t exactly good for the spirits. But how far are their gloomy predictions born out by the facts of the May 4 local election results| — in which the governing Tories won 38% (up eight points from last year's vote) and Labour just 27% (down 4 points)?

“We have just received urgent news from West Papua that 200 people have been arrested and 26 tortured by Indonesian police, two days before Indonesia hosts the World Press Freedom Day in Jakarta,” the Free West Papua Campaign said on May 1.

Italian Democratic Party (PD) members re-elected former prime minister Matteo Renzi as party secretary with 70% of the votes in primaries on April 30. Renzi’s re-election carries important significance for both Italy and Europe.

This is going to be an election based more on competing policies and visions of society than any other election for a long time. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, pointed out at the London May Day rally that this is completely different to the past two elections where the challenge was to spot the difference — elections that Labour lost.

The United States was the scene of three large national mass mobilisations from April 22 to May 1 challenging President Donald Trump’s agenda.  

After weeks of arm-twisting reluctant members and backroom negotiations, House Republicans voted Thursday to pass the much-maligned, "astonishingly evil" American Healthcare Act (AHCA), known as Trumpcare.

A young Palestinian man became the first victim of the open-ended hunger strike launched 1600 Palestinian political prisoners in the occupied West Bank on May 1. The 30-year-old, identified as Mazan al-Maghrebi, passed away at his home in the city of Ramallah, where he was on hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners. 

Speaking to tens of thousands of supporters gathered to commemorate International Workers Day on May 1, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced he would call a constituent assembly, effectively remaking the country's constitution.

"Today, on May 1, I announce that I will use my presidential privileges as constitutional head of state in accordance with article 347, to convene the original constituent power so that the working class and the people can call a national constituent assembly," President Maduro said.

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Venezuelan trade union leader Esmin Ramirez was killed on April 23 in Guayana City in the south-eastern state of Bolivar after being kidnapped in an act that people close to him say was politically motivated.

Ramirez was a member of the Movement 21 union in the state-run iron ore producer Ferrominera and a member of the governing United Socialist party of Venezuela (PSUV). The union leader was killed by several gunshots to the head. He had been kidnapped the night before.

A survey found a mass uprising against the Irish government would be joined by more than half of young people in the country, an April 26 Independent article said.

Fifty four per cent of 18-34-year-olds said they would take part in a “large scale uprising against the generation in power if it happened in the next days or months”.

The survey polled nearly 20,000 people in Ireland as part of the European Broadcasting Union’s Generation What? research.

It showed that about 76% viewed politicians as corrupt or partly corrupt.

“Labour is solidly ahead of the Conservatives with voters under 40 years old, despite being more than 20 points behind in the polls overall, according to a significant new poll,” The Independent said on April 26.

Over the past seven years of Hungary’s right-wing Viktor Orban regime, there were no strong protest waves — until now.

Every day, groups are popping up across Budapest demanding Orban resign. Every two-to-three days, masses gather to protest against new undemocratic laws proposed by the ruling Fidesz party in parliament.

The two biggest protests happened within just one week. The first major protest took place on April 9. It started as a protest against the so-called Lex CEU law that attacks academic freedom and ended with the masses marching on the Fidesz head office.

April 26 marked the 80th anniversary of the infamous aerial bombing of Gernika by the forces of General Francisco Franco in the fascists’ war against the Spanish Republic. The war began when Franco led a military rebellion against the legitimate, elected republican government in 1936, with the fascists eventually triumphing in 1939.

The Basque Country is a historically oppressed nation divided between the Spanish and French states. It was the scene of some of the worst fascist violence.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez announced that the country will begin the process of exiting the Organization of American States (OAS).

The announcement came after the organisation's Permanent Council agreed on April 26 to convene a meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the situation in Venezuela, with 19 votes in favour, 10 against, one abstention and one absence.

Women took to the streeks of Caracas on April 27, demanding an end to violent opposition protests, Venezuelanalysis.com said that day. The rally was supported by dozens of women’s groups from across the country, after being called by the Minister of Women and Gender Equality, Blanca Eekhout.

“Sisters, let's go together to fill the streets with love in the defence of life,” Eekhout said ahead of the march. She added, “We will overcome!”

For more than two months, displaced Tamils have been camped outside a military base at Keappa-Pulavu in northern Sri Lanka. They are demanding the return of their land, which was taken over by the Sri Lankan armed forces.

On April 24, Tamilnet said the Sri Lankan military has offered to return 30 acres of the 482 acres originally taken, while also giving the displaced people 90 acres of jungle.

Protestor Arumugam Velauthapillai responded: “We are not prepared to give up the protest until all our lands are released.” 

Less than three months into President Donald Trump’s reign we can already say that there is a non-trivial chance that the United States will soon be engaged in a nuclear war.

The threat is still remote, but the pieces are in place. An aircraft carrier group is en route to the Korean peninsula and anonymous sources have threatened a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.

For the first time since France’s fifth republic was established in 1958, the presidential run-off to be held on May 7 won’t involve a candidate from either the traditional centre-left or centre-right parties.

Former investment banker and ex-government minister Emmanuel Macron (24%) and far right National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen (21.3%) topped the results in the first round of France’s presidential elections on April 23.

Venezuela is in flames. Or at least parts of it are.

Since April 4, right-wing opposition militants have carried targeted acts of violence, vandalism and arson. They are deliberately clashing with security forces in a bid to plunge the country into chaos and forcefully remove the elected socialist government.

It is the continuation of an 18 year effort to topple the Bolivarian revolution by any means necessary — although you may have seen it miraculously recast in the mainstream media as “promoting a return to democracy.

Support for the more than 1500 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, which began on April 16, continues to grow across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, despite the more than 1500 prisoners on hunger strike getting almost no reaction from mainstream media.

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