Latin America

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.

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.

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.

“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.”

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.

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 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.

A coordinated, virulent and sustained campaign for "regime change" against the government and people of Venezuela is occurring around the world right now.

Led by the US, the campaign involves a systematic stream of "fake news" in the international media, backed by an unholy alliance of right-wing and "liberal" politicians and commentators, all singing from the same song sheet — that Venezuela is a "socialist dictatorship" with a collapsing economy and the unfortunate people of that country are yearning to be free of that regime.

A few days after arriving in Venezuela, we drive past La Carlota military base in the east of Caracas, which was a regular site for the violent street protests commonly known here as guarimbas.

The highway we were travelling on was often blockaded by protesters — guarimberos — who made up the backbone of the self-dubbed “La Resistencia”. They received glowing praise in the international media during the wave of protests that rocked the country from April to July.

Football players, past and present, have spoken out on the case of Santiago Maldonado, an indigenous rights activist who has not been seen since Border Force officers violently broke up a protest by a Mapuche community in Argentina’s Patagonia region on August 1.

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