Curtain Raiser

Tomorrow May Die Today, Colltalers

Guns fell silent for a bit around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex while U.N. inspectors visited it. A report will follow. Iraq remains calm too after last week’s bloody clashes between Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and security forces. And this Labor Day may mark a global resurgence of unions.
Chileans have decided not to approve a new, progressive constitution, to replace the one left by dictator Augusto Pinochet. Brazil celebrates 200 years of independence with competing political rallies. And there’s been another tragedy for migrants to the U.S. as nine drowned crossing the Rio Grande.
Let’s begin in Canada where a horrific knife attack on Sunday left at least 10 Indigenous people dead and scores of others injured in several places in and around Saskatchewan. As police seek two suspects identified as culprits, the James Smith Cree Nation declared a state of emergency until Sept. 30.
In Argentina, Vice President Cristina Kirchner survived an attempt on her life caught on camera, as the would-be assassin’s gun failed to shoot. The attack turned the tide against her: last week, crowds were angry at her for allegations of corruption during her presidency, from 2007 to 2015. But now thousands rallied to support her. The Brazilian gunman, a driver who posed on social media with a Nazi ‘Schwarze Sonne’ tattoo, is already in custody.
In Brazil, three members of the Guajajara tribe, known for its ‘Guardians of the Forest’ environmental defense squad, have been killed in the last few days. Rallies against violence, illegal logging, and mining, and to demand the government’s demarcation of their land last week have culminated with Sunday’s Amazônia Day. Arguably for the first time, the Indigenous people of Brazil may play a meaningful role in the October presidential elections.
In Myanmar, the junta that seized power in 2021 and since then has run a terror regime, has sentenced de facto Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi to three years of hard labor on top of the 17-year sentence she’s already serving. The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been a rock in the military shoes but her global projection kept her alive, unlike hundreds of ‘disappeared’ activists. The Burmese wonder when will the world care about them.
In China, there’s anger about a U.N. report on the government’s treatment of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim groups in the Xinjiang province which may constitute crimes against humanity. “Credible” allegations of torture, rape, mass detention, forced labor, and widespread violence have been documented. Some sources believe that China holds some 800,000 thousand people belonging to ethnic and religious minorities in its detention camps.
In the Arctic, where melting glaciers are opening a new battleground for international trade routes and disputes, the U.S. will have its own ambassador-at-large. The eight nations of the Arctic Council, the U.S., Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Canada, manage the entire region.
In New York, the union representing carriage horse drivers proposed changes to the industry, after years of calls to ban horse carriages in the city. Just weeks ago, a driver was caught on camera abusing his horse, who had collapsed of exhaustion and heat in the middle of traffic. It wasn’t the first time. Many have suggested NYC replace the old fashion cabbies with electric carts but that and other ideas are still to be embraced even by some residents.
“There has been increased military activity, including this morning,” said Rafael Mariano Grossi, director of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency in Ukraine last Thursday. The IAEA plans to establish a “continued presence” at the site but how would that be accomplished with the current low-interest diplomacy is getting from world leaders, is another story. “Having come so far, we are not stopping,” he said, even if “risks are very high.”
After a week of turmoil with supporters of al-Sadr fighting security forces inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government, the Shiite cleric called off his troops and said he’s retiring from politics again, whatever that means. Barbara Leif, the U.S. Assistant Sec. of State paid a visit to P.M. Mustafa Al-Kadhimi to discuss the crisis. Al-Sadr’s party won the 2021 elections but the government won’t accept its pro-Iran connections.
Labor Day, for most countries, is a time to celebrate the power of unions and workers’ rights, just as it used to be in the country where it was created, the U.S. But for years, conservatives successfully twisted the day’s original purpose. Until now, when there’s a new urgency to reinstate the movement and with that, to address the many indignities of capitalism. It’s a tall order but there are encouraging signs and a new generation eager to try it anew.
In a heartbreaking vote for newly elected President Gabriel Boric, Chileans rejected a new constitution that would replace the one enacted in 1981 by murderous dictator Augusto Pinochet. Just in time for the sobering 49th anniversary of the Sept 11, 1973 coup that he launched, which assassinated the democratically elected President Salvador Allende and killed, kidnapped, and tortured thousands. He died in 2006 without spending a single day in jail.
Brazil, which also fell through a military dictatorship around the same period, as other Latin American nations, faces its 200 years of independence in the most polarized time of its history. In a month, a presidential election will pitch current ultra-right leader Jair Bolsonaro against former President Lula da Silva, who’s ahead in the polls. Indigenous people, minorities, and the poor, rally for Lula’s comeback. But the military may have other ideas.
In fact, Bolsonaro has been trying to get their support, certain that the institution that kicked him out as a captain will now come to his rescue. What’s sure is that Evangelicals and big landowners are still on his side. As for Lula, he’s now a target, and bigger than losing the vote would be losing his life.
Tensions were already heightened even before the attempt on Argentina’s Kirchner, and the president, a gun enthusiast, has called supporters to rally on Sept. 7, the national day. Obviously, the Lula-founded Workers’ Party will also rally with predictable results. The entire continent is on pins and needles over this vote’s outcome. It’ll either strengthen or deflate the so-called Pink Tide Two, or Latin America’s rejection of the neoliberal economic model.
The nine migrants found dead in the Rio Grande were part of a large group of people trying to enter the U.S. through Eagle Pass, Texas. Tragically, it’s unlikely that we’ll know their names, stories, and the harrowing conditions that forced them to risk everything to come to an America that’s no longer the welcoming beacon they imagine, quite the opposite. The very idea of immigration has been thwarted by misconceptions and U.S. draconian laws.
They will keep on coming because there’s no change in the social and economic conditions of where they come from. As the West reeks of a new war, with Russia, China, or whoever – after all, gun inventories are being built as we speak – don’t expect hawks or gun-ho addicts to show remorse for the carnage, even as their actions multiply refugees and asylum seekers everywhere. Rather, let’s build another inventory, one made of benevolent humans.
“I am an optimist and I believe that together we shall be able now to make the right historical choice so as not to miss the great chance at the turn of centuries and millennia and make the current extremely difficult transition to a peaceful world order.” Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev’s speech while receiving the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize. The legacy of the last leader of the Soviet Union, who passed away last week, is already etched in history books.
And so is the impact of his Perestroika on Russia and the world, a reason for discredit and even hatred at home, and for emphatic admiration outside it. He earned them both by standing by what he believed, despite being ostracized even by Putin, who didn’t even go to his funeral. R.I.P., Marked One.
One last word for the great tennis player Serena Williams who may have played her last competitive match in New York this week. It’s hard to measure greatness in someone who has achieved it so often as Serena, and to a lesser extent, her sister Venus did. But as a poor Black woman who conquered such astounding heights, she stands alone. For it’s not about titles, although she’s won them plenty, but dignity. Thanks for the memories, Meka. Serve! WC


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