Mexican authorities on May 1 announced the seizure of a ship carrying 68,000 tons of illegal iron ore bound for China—hailed as the latest blow in a crackdown on the contraband mineral sideline by the Knights Templar drug cartel. Federal police were apparently tipped off by an anonymous phone call after the ship left Lazaro Cárdenas, the Pacific port in conflicted Michoacán state. Authorities detained the ship, the Jian Hua, off Manzanillo, the next major port up the coast, in neighboring Colima state. The ship's crew produced documents showing it had authorization to transport the iron ore. But authoriites said the paperwork listed a legal mine that was not the actual source of the contraband ore. The company operating the ship, China's Fujian Huarong Marine, has been given one month to prove to authorities that the ore was extracted legally. Mexican authorities say they have seized more than 200,000 tons of illegal iron ore so far this year, most of it headed for China.
The US District Court for the District of Columbia on May 16 ordered (PDF) officials at Guantánamo Bay to temporarily suspend forced feedings of a detainee at the facility. Judge Gladys Kessler's unprecedented ruling also bars officials at the facility from subjecting the detainee to so-called forced cell extractions "for the purposes of" tube-feedings until May 21, the date of the next hearing in the case. The ruling also orders the military to preserve more than 100 videos that show the prisoner being forcibly removed from his cell and force-fed. Syrian national Abu Wa'el Dhiab (advocacy website) has been held at Guantánamo Bay since 2002 after being detained in Pakistan. Dhiab has been cleared for release or transfer out of Guantanamo since 2009, and has been refusing food for over a year. Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale stated in an e-mail that "[w]hile the Department follows the law and only applies enteral feeding in order to preserve life, we will, of course, comply with the judge's order here." (Jurist, May 17; Al Jazeera America, May 16)
Speaking to reporters May 14 from an undisclosed location somewhere in the mountains of Talaingod, Davao del Norte province, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, a group of traditional indigenous elders, or datu, said: "We want peace here in Talaingod. But if they take away our land, we will fight. We will fight with our native weapons." The group was led by Datu Guibang Apoga, who has been a fugitive from the law since 1994, when he led a resistance movement of the Manobo indigenous people against timber and mineral interests, fighting company personnel and security forces with bows and arrows and spears. Wearing their traditional outfits, the tribal leaders threatened to return to arms unless the Philippine government demilitarizes their lands and respects Manobo territorial rights.
At least 14 people and possibly up to 10 more are reported to have been killed in fighting in Benghazi May 16 as forces led by Gen. Khalifa Hafter attacked an alliance of Islamist militias made up of the February 17 Brigade, Libya Shield No. 1 Brigade and Ansar al-Sharia. Gen. Hafter's attack on the militias was apparently not approved by the central government in Tripoli, which has disavowed it. Acting Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni condemned the operation as "a coup against the revolution." The fighting is the heaviest in Libya since the 2011 revolution. Eye-witnesses describe a city in chaos, with warplanes streaking low over rooftops, tanks on the streets, aerial bombardments and door-to-door combat. The February 17 Brigade claims to have shot down a helicopter used in the attacks. Fighting continues, with with all shops shut and the city virtually closed down—including the internet for much of the day, supposedly due to a short circuit. (Shabab Libya, Libya Herald, BBC News, May 16)
Thousands of Turkish workers went on a one-day strike May 15 to express their outrage over the mining disaster at Some, western province of Manisa. An explosion killed at least 284 workers at the coal mine, with hundreds more still trapped and believed dead. Some thousand unionists gathered in Ankara to march on the Labor Ministry, some wearing miners' helmets and waving banners with the image of Che Guevara. toll from the disaster rising to 283 and scores still trapped underground. The largest mobilization was in Izmir, the nearest large city to Soma, where some 20,000 took to the streets chanting slogans against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP): "The fires of Soma will burn AKP," and "AKP murderers!" Police fired tear-gas and water cannon to break up the protest. Angry demonstrations continue in Soma itself. Unionists blame the privatization of the mining sector for making working conditions more dangerous. The Soma mine was privatized in 2005. Unions also accuse the government of rejecting a recent proposal for a parliamentary inquiry into mine accidents. In the last deadly accident, January 2013 saw eight miners killed in a methane explosion in Kozlu. (BIANet, May 16; BBC News, Al Jazeera, May 15; Industri-ALL, May 14)
At least three cars, including a police vehicle, were set ablaze in the Rio de Janeiro favela of Complexo do Alemão on April 29 after the fatal shooting of an elderly woman—the latest in a series of such outbreaks as Brazilian authorities attempt to clean up Rio's slums before the World Cup games open next month. Arlinda Bezerra de Assis, 72, died after being shot in the stomach during a gun battle between police and presumed gang members. In another incident on April 23, the favela violence actually spilled into Rio's posh beachfront tourist districts—an unprecedented occurrence that doubtless struck fear deep into the hearts of the city fathers. The protests broke out in the Pavao-Pavaozinho favela, perched on the hills overlooking the famed Copacabana district. The riots were sparked after word spread that the body of Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, 25, a popular dancer on Brazil's Globo TV network, had been discovered in the favela—apparently killed as "collateral damage" in another one of the frequent police shoot-outs with drug gangs. Residents swept down into Copacabana, setting fires and hurling bottles at police, vehicles and businesses. The violence also spilled over into nearby Ipanema, another posh tourist district. The young dancer's funeral two days later also exploded into a riot, as mourners blocked traffic after leaving the Sao Joao Batista cemetery, chanting "Justice! Justice! Police murderers!" Police used tear-gas to clear the intersection. The Military Police "pacification" campaign aimed at getting the favelas under control ahead of the World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics looks like it may be backfiring horribly. (World Bulletin, April 29; AFP, April 25; Daily Mail,VOA, April 23)
Peru's Ministry of Justice said in a statement May 8 that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), a body of the Organization of American States (OAS), has rejected a request from activists to recommend revoking the license for the controversial Conga open-pit gold mine in Cajamarca region. But the ministry's statement was immediately refuted by Zulma Villa Vílchez, attorney for the activists. Villa Vílchez asserted that the IACHR had not ruled on the Conga license, but had only issued a determination on another matter related to the conflict around the project—ordering Peru's government to provide protection for local residents, including the Chaupe family, which is in a land conflict with the mining company and facing threats. Said Villa Vílchez: "This injunction must not be confused with the petition we have made before the IACHR to stop the Conga project; they are two different things. On the latter, there has still not been a pronouncement." The case was brought by the Central Única Nacional de Rondas Campesinas (CUNARC), a body representing Peru's peasant self-defense patrols, which have emerged as the backbone of resistance movements to mineral development projects. (La Republica, May 9; Reuters, Caballero Verde, Cajamarca, May 8)
A new report issued by Peruvian NGO Environmental and Natural Resrouces Law (DAR) counts 412 hydro-electric dams to be built across the Amazon basin and its headwaters if current plans go ahead, potentially leading to the "end of free-flowing rivers" and contributing to "ecosystem collapse." Of the 412 dams already in operation, under construction or proposed, 256 are in Brazil, 77 in Peru, 55 in Ecuador, 14 in Bolivia, six in Venezuela, two in Guyana, and one each in Colombia, French Guyana and Surinam, said anthropologist Paul Little at the launch of the English version of the report, "Mega-Development Projects in Amazonia: A Geopolitical and Socioenvironmental Primer." (PDF). The report finds: "This new wave of dam building in the headwaters of the Basin is a 'hydrological experiment' of continental proportions, yet little is known scientifically of pan-Amazonian hydrological dynamics, creating the risk of provoking irreversible changes in rivers." (The Guardian's Andes to the Amazon blog, May 6)