Rethinking Mauritania Policy Over Human Rights Abuses

After some deliberation, I’m moving links off of the main page. While I have added a menu option for links that is more prominent and they will still appear in the RSS feed, I removed them for a couple reasons. They are usually not directly related to the photos or journal posts and they are often extended quotes with a bit of my own commentary.

But that won’t stop me from sharing what I read. With reduced time in the my own vampire castle, I prefer the open spaces of the independent web even more.

I might occasionally bundle some diverse links together without any relation to each other, which is pretty in-character for me. But not today.

Amandla Thomas-Johnson, a Dakar-based journalist for Middle East Eye, is very reliable for Mauritania news in English. His piece about five Republican congressmen’s letter to the Secretary of State Pompeo warning of the human rights situation could be a good place to start for people unfamiliar to the country’s issues.

These efforts to lobby what are two of the country’s most stalwart allies come as Mauritanian activists make renewed calls for the government to address racial injustices amid a global groundswell of Black Lives Matter protests.

Mauritania is a key ally for the United States in its ’war on terror’ and hosts the second-largest diaspora community for Mauritanians, despite Trump’s ICE going after some of them.

Mauritania has a deep racism problem embedded into the fabric of society, so much so that even well-meaning people who are not subjected to second-class citizenship often fail to see the problem. Does this remind you of another country? I should hope so.

The congressmen’s letter said: “Mauritania has a long history of hereditary slavery based on ethnic and racial discrimination against Black Mauritanians.” The country formally abolished the practice in 1981 but criminalised it only in 2007, and in 2018 the Global Slavery Index estimated that 90,000 people in Mauritania were living under modern slavery.

On top of the vestiges of slavery that does not look like the chattel plantation slavery system of the America, Mauritania

The congressmen also criticised the lack of accountability for purges by state forces of Black African Mauritanians between 1989-1991, in which tens of thousands – about eight percent of the community – were deported or forced to flee to neighbouring countries. “Mauritania has not provided accountability for mass murders, repression and unwarranted deportations,” their letter said.

Most of those purged from the country were subsistence farmers working on the little arable land Mauritania has, which lies along the Senegal River valley in the south. Others were intellectuals, businesspeople and professionals, members of the thriving urban elites who were pushed out as the government pursued a sectarian Arab-nationalist ideology.

Black Africans make up about a third of the country’s population, as do Arab-Berbers, the dominant group. Haratin, the Black descendants of slaves once owned by Arab-Berbers, account for the rest.

Despite the violence, a law was passed to shield the perpetrators from justice and an amnesty was granted to the security forces involved.

Mauritania has been described as the other apartheid for its treatment of Afro-Mauritanians. As many in the the United States wake up to our own failings, it’s a small but positive step that some in Congress, from the own president’s party no less, are speaking up.

An American State Organized on Fascist Principles

Fascism is capitalism in decay.
Maybe Lenin but probably R. Palme Dutt

There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People
Umberto Eco

The past week has laid bare all of America’s growing contradictions. The contradictions of mythical American exceptionalism, late-stage gig economy services capitalism with 40 million unemployed, a pandemic that disproportionately affects people of color with little-to-no federal response, an incoming climate crisis already visible but ignored, consolidated financial capital for the 1% while growing misery affects all of the working class. It is a country that cannot, or will not, provide a social safety net to working people nor appropriate equipment to medical personnel during a pandemic, yet will happily mobilize a militarized police to crush any legal right to voice discontent with widespread violence and impunity. Ironically, it will designate anti-fascism as a terrorist ideology.

While both conservative and liberal media hyperventilate about looting, no one has bothered questioning the heavy-handed actions of the police apparatus as perhaps initiating a response by people looting. In fact, many articles coming out in the Spanish press are praising police taking a knee with protestors. Which is absurd, because thirty minutes after these photo ops, they start tear-gassing again.

Adam Weinstein for The New Republic:

It is time to embrace the parallels, to be unafraid to speak a clear truth: Whether by design or lack of it, Donald Trump and the Republican Party operate an American state that they have increasingly organized on fascist principles. It is also time to consider what else the fascists may yet do, during an unprecedented pandemic, amid unprecedented unemployment, faced with unprecedented resistance ahead of an unprecedented election. The Republican Party wants to make “antifascist” a category of terrorist; whether or not it actually uses active-duty soldiers to round up this new class of undesirables in the “national emergency,” it has at its disposal every police officer who flies a Punisher or Blue Lives Matter flag above the U.S. flag, every armed vigilante and Oathkeeper and Proud Boy who craves the boogaloo.

America is in a deep crisis, and it has little to do with some people looting some stores. Far from the cries of police reform of more body cams, the people on the streets understand that any posturing by politicians with these ideas are totally insufficient. We have past that long ago. We are seeing this level of uprising precisely because the authorities have ignored this for decades.

We have no opposition party left in the Democratic Party, with its means-tested focus-grouped solutions. And the Republican Party has been wholly capture by Trump and his brand of vacuous machismo. These contradictions necessitate systemic change, and it starts with overthrowing capitalism. Vote for whoever you want in November, but regardless of who ascends to the highest office in the land, our crises go beyond the ballot box. Our decaying empire and its sprawling military will still be there if Joe Biden is president. We will still be left with structural racism and a trigger-happy, violent police force that believes themselves to be an occupying force in American cities, because they live in the suburbs. We will still have concentrated capital for a small group of oligarchs that offer shitty jobs with no medical or social protections. It is time to start understanding that reality and act accordingly.

The Millennial Left and the “Lesser Evil” of Joe Biden

A thing I saw after the the end of the Bernie campaign was this call online for the socialist left to throw down our ideological weapons and surrender to the inevitable Biden candidacy. “You have to vote for him! Otherwise, you are enabling fascism,” some said.

Asad Haider in Salon:

The scale of social change required to manage the impending age of catastrophe lies beyond the myopia of those who, since the election of George W. Bush (if not before that, in historical terms), have endlessly repeated that we have no option but to reduce our politics to the embrace of the “lesser evil.” To reprimand young people for failing to muster enthusiasm for voting for the lesser evil ultimately amounts to a refusal to recognize the necessity for a greater idea, for a mobilization for structural transformation. In our age of catastrophe, “lesser-evil-ism” is the most unethical position. The slogan of May ‘68, “Be realistic; demand the impossible!” remains a rational and ethical principle for the present. We should be inspired by the youth who are reviving it.

Haider rightly points out the absurdity of demanding allegiance from a few thousand socialists and preemptively blaming them for a possible loss, rather than building a political program that inspires millions of Americans who do not see the point in voting at all.

If Biden loses, it will not be because the Democratic Socialist of America didn’t endorse him, a request unbelievably laughable. It will be because, like in 2016, the Democratic Party decided to tack to the center, offer platitudes, and bank on white educated suburbanites and older loyalty voters of color. They will once again ignore the working class, the precarious millennials with Uber jobs and no chance of ever becoming homeowners ourselves.

To be transparent, I am still undecided about what I will do in November. California is solidly blue and we all know the popular vote is meaningless in our supposed democratic republic. I can hold my nose and vote for Biden, stay home, or vote third party.

The troika of crises that I squawk about; coronavirus, capitalism and the looming financial crisis, and climate change demand much more than going to the polls every four years for a false choice between evils. A re-configuration of society based on ecological, internationalist, and anticapitalist lines is the only way forward.

You say “it’s unnecessary”? Look around.
You say “it’s impossible”? Not with that attitude.

An Andalusian Pueblo Blanco Without Coronavirus

Instead of jumping on Twitter in the early mornings and inevitably seeing distressing reports of impunity and inequality, I’ve been reading La Voz de Galicia. It’s local news that relates more to my day-to-day, I practice reading Spanish and Galician, and there’s a plethora of human interest pieces that are pretty interesting. I pick out a few to read while I eat some breakfast to prepare for the day’s fasting. This pleasant article caught my attention today:

“Zahara de la Sierra, from medieval fortress to sanitary fortress”

The town of 1,500, a quarter of which over the age of 65, has not registered a single case of coronavirus. Considering that at the time of writing, Spain is the country with the second highest number of total cases and the fourth highest number of coronavirus-related fatalities, this is astonishing and awesome.

Zahara is a pueblo blanco, one of the whitewashed towns in the southern community of Andalusia with narrow streets and clustered houses. This one is perched on a mountain, with an old Moorish fort overlooking the town. I haven’t been there myself but I’ve been to other pueblos blancos like Grazalema and Ronda.

So how did Zahara de la Sierra manage to stay free from coronavirus, even as nearby towns and villages registered cases and fatalities?

First, they sprang into action the day after the state of alarm was announced and blocked off four of the five roads leading into the town. They sprayed every entering vehicle with water and bleach. The markets set up a delivery service. The women’s association cooked and delivered food to the footsteps of their elderly neighbors. They cleaned the streets a few times a week. They stayed in touch on Facebook. They outfitted music and lights onto cars to entertain children from the balconies. And they used the town’s contingency fund to help family-run businesses and autónomos, freelancers, stay afloat during the lockdown. They also turned away tourists, even though the pueblos blancos are very popular with international tourists and depend on the tourism sector.

This level of neighborhood support and seriousness to health should be envied everywhere.

First Brown Bear in the Central Ourensan Massif Since the Late 19th Century

Some good news in nature conservation. A brown bear between 3-5 years old came from A Serra do Courel in Lugo and probably spent the winter in Parque Natural do Invernadeiro, where it was caught on cameras set up for a documentary.

Patricia found this article in National Geographic España. There’s also a short English version at The Guardian.

We moved to Galicia in September, first on the coast near O Grove. We were preoccupied with finding work and a place to live so we weren’t in the adventurous spirit, other than a small road trip to find where we live now. Now that the quarantine deescalation and true spring have begun, I’m itching to get back to camping in the van, going on hikes, and exploring some of these places so close to us, like the central Ourensan Massif and of course, back to Ribeira Sacra. Hopefully we won’t disturb this guy when we’re there.