Argentina's state firm YPF was at the point of completely shutting down oil and gas production throughout Neuquén province after indigenous Mapuche residents blocked access to to wells for 48 hours to press demands over territorial rights. The blockades were lifted Sept. 4 after a hectic days of dialogue with Mapche leaders. The blockade was undertaken by the Mapuche community of Paynemil to press authorities to complete a demarcation of traditional indigenous lands in the area, as mandated by National Law 26.160 of 2006 but still not carried out. Hundreds of wells at the Loma La Lata, Rincón del Mangrullo and Loma Campana fields were affected by the action, supposedly costing YPF millions of dollars. July saw similar protests, when the Loma Campana field was blocked by members of the Mapuche community of Campo Maripe. The issue has been outstanding for years, but the new blockades marked the first time that hydrocarbon production throughout the province was affected. (InfoBae, InfoBae, Cronista, Sept. 4; Cronista, Diario Norte, July 30)
Syrian civilians are facing war crimes and crimes against humanity with "no end in sight," a group of UN human rights experts finds. The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic issued its latest report (PDF) on the civil war in Syria Sept. 3. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, chair of the UN investigative panel, stated to members of the Associated Press that the Islamic State (IS) seems to be "desperate, because they are losing ground." According to the report, IS suffered significant losses to the Kurdish armed group, the People's Protection Units (YPG), and has resorted to using suicide car-bombs and hit-and-run tactics. US intelligence agencies seem to disagree with Pinheiro, as the CIA and other agencies announced in July that their assessments show IS is "fundamentally no weaker than it was when the US-led bombing campaign began a year ago."
Hungary's increasingly fascistic Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in Brussels to pitch the EU on his tough new anti-immigrant policy, issued a warning to Syrian refugees stay out of his country. In a statement all the more sickening for being veiled in an Orwellian cloak of "morality" and "humanitarian" concern, he told reporters: "The moral, human thing is to make clear 'please don't come! Why you have to go from Turkey to Europe? Turkey is a safe country. Stay there, it's risky to come! We can't guarantee that you will be accepted here.'" And of course by "can't guarantee that you will be accepted," what he really means is "we will not accept you." Orban hopes to push through his new anti-immigrant law by Sept. 15, making it a criminal offense to cross the Hungarian border without proper documentation, or to cause damage to the new "security fence" being built along the 175-kilometer frontier with Serbia. (Euronews)
Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina sent a letter to both the country's congress and reporters early Aug. 3 announcing his resignation and his intention to "stand before justice." The congress had called an emergency session to meet that day to accept the letter of resignation. Several hours before resigning, the public prosecutor requested Pérez Molina's arrest on corruption charges and a trial judge ordered his arrest. Pérez Molina and 30 other government officials allegedly took millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for keeping low import duties. Vice President Alejandro Maldonado has assumed the presidency, and must compile a list of three names for consideration for vice president, to be chosen by congress. Maldonado replaced vice president Roxana Baldetti, who was arrested in August on corruption charges. Eight other government officials have already resigned over the allegations. Pérez Molina's resignation comes only three days before the Guatemalan general election.
In new protests over the Bloc 192 oil-field in the north Peruvian Amazon, some 20 indigenous Achuar and Kichwa warriors occupied the local air-strip of multinational Pluspetrol, in Trompeteros, Loreto region. They also seized a pumping station at nearby Pavayacu. The protesters are demanding better compensation for the use of their lands, and opposing the new contract for development of the field to Canadian company Pacific Stratus Energy, a subsidiary of Pacific Rubiales. A civil strike was also declared in Iquitos, the region's principal city, where barricades were built on major streets, paralyzing traffic. The Iquitos protesters, supported by the region's president, want the oil bloc to be taken over by state-owned PetroPeru. "The only thing foreign companies have done is pollute and foment distrust among local populations," said Loreto president Fernando Meléndez. "We don't see any benefits and remain an impoverished region." The bloc has been exploited for more than 40 years, most recently by Pluspetrol, an Argentine company whose contract expired Aug. 29. The 48-hour paro or civl strike was jointly called by Loreto Patriotic Front (FPL) and the Federation of Native Communities of Alto Tigre (FECONAT). (TerraPeru, Sept. 3, La República, Reuters, Sept. 2; El Comercio, Peru21, Sept. 1; Andina, Aug. 21)
The trial of Bosco Ntaganda (BBC profile), a former Congolese rebel leader also known as "The Terminator," began at the International Criminal Court (ICC) Sept. 2. The rebel leader has pleaded innocent to the 18 charges levied against him, including rape, murder, recruitment of child soldiers and sexual slavery of civilians. He has been accused of killing at least 800 civilians between the years of 2002 and 2003 and keeping girl soldiers as sex slaves. The trial is expected to last for a few months with the anticipation that approximately 80 witness will be called. He faces a maximum life sentence if convicted.
Authorities in Turkey's eastern Muş province have launched an investigation into the distribution of photos on social media showing the dead and mutilated body of a woman believed to be a militant of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). (See map) The governor's office confirmed that the woman in the picture was PKK militant Kevser Eltürk AKA Ekin Wan, who was killed in a clash with Turkish security forces on Aug. 10 in Muş' Varto district. The picture shows a naked woman, apparently dead, lying on the ground with bruises and blood visible on her body. Three men, whose faces are not seen, are seen standing near the body. Eltürk appeared to have finally been strangled, according to Democratic Regions' Party (DBP) regional co-chair Hamiyet Şahin, who washed the militant's body in preparation for burial. A protest march over the incident Aug. 16 was followed by a sit-in protest organized by the DBP that drew Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputies Gülser Yıldırım and Enise Güneyli. (Al Arabiya News, Aug. 19; Hurriyet Daily News, Aug. 17)
The Kurdish news agency Rudaw reports Aug. 28 that the First Kakai Battalion of the Peshmerga, a 630-strong force made up entirely of members of the Kakai religious minority, is preparing to go into battle against ISIS along the frontline near Daquq—and protests that they are being denied the weaponry they need. When ISIS swept into northern Iraq last year, commander Farhad Nezar Kakai urged the Kurdistan Regional Government to establish the Kakai force to defend the minority's nine villages near the frontline in Kirkuk governorate. "After the catastrophe of Shingal, we felt that same thing could happen to Kakais," Nezar told Rudaw, referring to the massacre of thousands of Yazidis at Mount Sinjar (as it is more commonly rendered). The Kakai, like the Yazidis, are followers of a pre-Islamic faith, and targeted for extremination by ISIS.