Uganda's parliament on Jan. 15 retroactively approved military intervention in neighboring South Sudan—after President Yoweri Museveni reversed his initial denials and admitted Ugandan troops are fighting there. His administration spun it in terms of humanitarian intervention, with Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga telling parliament: "That a genocide was looming in South Sudan was a reality." (Zee News) But some say the intervention could only deepen the crisis, and undermine Uganda's supposed role as a moderator in the still-fruitless peace talks being brokered in Ethiopia by regional bloc IGAD. Aly Verjee, a senior researcher for the Rift Valley Institute, told IRIN: "If Uganda deploys more offensive forces to South Sudan, there is the risk the conflict escalates and the neutrality of IGAD's mediation is undermined. A split in the views of IGAD member states will not help the peace process."
On Christmas Day, some 500 riot police in Mexico's Federal District destroyed a protest encampment that had been maintained for months at San Pedro Márti barrio in Tlalpan delegation, on the southern outskirts of Mexico City. The camp, dubbed "Ixtliyolotl" for the indigenous place-name for the locale, was launched by supporters of the Movement of Neighborhods and Pueblos of the South, to oppose construction of a gas station along the highway linking Mexico City to Cuernavaca. Activists say the petrol station—being built by CorpoGas, which was spun off from state oil monopoly Pemex in 1982—has not received proper environmental review, and will accelerate the transformation of their neighborhod into a traffic-clogged commuter artery. Residents vow to continue the fight. (SeraPaz, Jan. 6; Desinformémonos, Jan. 5, translated by Angry White Kid; La Jornada, Dec. 25)
Peru seems poised to move forward with the controversial expansion of the Camisea gas project in the lowland rainforest of Cuzco region, following the Jan. 7 release of a new document by the Vice-Ministry for Interculturality. The document is an official response to consortium leader Pluspetrol's own response issued a week earlier to the Vice-Ministry's objections to the Environmental Impact Assessment for the project. The new response says the Vice-Ministry is lifting 34 of its 37 objections to the impact study. The remaining three points concern protection of the watershed of the Río Paquiría, which could impact where the consortium conducts seismic tests. But the statement apparently raised no concerns about isolated indigenous bands living in the concession area, which overlaps with the buffer zone of Manu National Park, hailed by UNSECO as having a level of biological diversity that "exceeds that of any other place on Earth."
In a new mobilization on the contested Conga mine site in Peru's northern region of Cajamarca, hundreds of local campesinos on Jan. 16 again marched to the shores of the alpine lakes that would be destroyed by the project. National daily La Republica, citing unnamed sources, said the marchers pushed past security guards, and caused "disturbances" and "material damage" to equipment of the Yanacocha mining company. One protester was reported arrested by National Police troops. However, Cajamarca-baed popular organization Tierra y Libertad in a statement on Facebook said only that some 2,000 ronderos (members of the peasant self-defense patrols) from the local provinces of Bambamarca and Celendín marched on the site, taking a six-hour roundabout way through mountain paths to avoid the roadblocks "illegally maintained" by National Police and Yanacocha security.
Vancouver-based IMPACT Silver Corp boasted in a press release this month of promising "second phase drill results" from the San Juan Project, located 150 meters north of its producing Noche Buena Mine and four kilometers southwest of its 500-tonne-per-day Guadalupe Production Center. These are all old mines that the company is now reviving in what it calls the "Royal Mines of Zacualpan Silver-Gold District" of central Mexico. (MarketWired, Jan. 7) But in a community assembly in November, campesinos from the local Nahua indigenous community of Zacualpan (Comala municipality, Colima state) voted to decalre their territory a mine-free zone. On Dec. 4, a delegation from the Indigenous Council for the Defense of the Territory of Zacualpan and Bios Iguana presented the decision to the Federal Agrarian Tribunal in Colima's state capital. Citing a threat to local water sources and the community's "right to consultation," the Indigenous Council pledged to resist any expansion of mining operations at the sites.
The police-besieged offices of the divided Aymara indigenous organization CONAMAQ in La Paz were turned over on Jan. 15 to leaders of the faction aligned with Bolivia's ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS). The pro-MAS faction, led by Hilarión Mamani, marched on the two-story building in the city's Sopocachi district, which was surrounded by a double cordon: first, a phalanx of riot police, then a vigil by supporters of the independent "organic" faction. Mamani's group, some 300 strong, reportedly advanced on the vigil, sparking a brief fracas. "Organic" CONAMAQ said in a statement that Mamani rejected an offer of dialogue on the spot, and that two "organic" leaders, Félix Becerra and Cancio Rojas, were physically threatened. Mamani and his group were then allowed to pass into the building by police, who were supposedly under orders to secure it from either faction until the dispute is resolved. (Erbol, Página Siete, La Paz, Jan. 15)
The Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus came under bombardment Jan. 16 by the Bashar Assad regime's improvised TNT-filled "barrel-bombs," dropped by helicopter, resulting in the death of at least five residents. The attack destroyed one apartment block and severely damaged others, and it is feared that more casualties may still be beneath the rubble. The strike apparently targeted a section of the camp controlled by the Omari Battalion, aligned with the Free Syrian Army. The battalion's commander Ismail Abu Hani al-Omari said that militants in the village of Yalda west of Yarmouk brought down the helicopter with a missile after it struck the camp. (Oximity, Jan. 18; Ma'an New Agency, Jan. 17)
Egyptians voter appear to have approved a new constitution, potentially setting the stage for army chief Ge. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to declare his candidacy for president. Authorities put the preliminary results at 90% in favor of the new charter. But the two-day vote was marred by violence. As polls opened, a bomb exploded near a Cairo courthouse, although no casualties were claimed. Over the next tow days, scattered clashes left 10 dead, despite streets flooded with soliders. The Muslim Brotherhood, now officially banned and declared a terrorist group, called for a boycott of the vote, and is promising a new protest mobilization in the following 10 days, leading up to the third anniversary of the start of the revolution that brought down strongman Hosni Mubarak. Security forces have sealed off Tahrir Square to keep protesters from gathering. (Reuters, Daily News Egypt, Jan. 15; CNN, BBC News, Jan. 14)