World Peace Update
Last week, the UK and France came so close to a having a real, bona fide war about scallops that you could almost smell the garlic, if you were in the Alps, because that is where the French would run to in order to hide. I polished my LARPing armour and began practising my French, but to no avail – I was once again left snaffling my violence hit from video games I like to play in my boxer shorts.
Thankfully a bunch of Mexican students, some Panamaniacs and a cabal of Kosovan politicians soon decided to smash that disgusting outbreak of peace and brightened up my week. Aw, you guyz.
You'd think Mexico's induction into World Peace Update would be focused on the ongoing, bloody narco-war that seems to have been ravaging the country for longer than I've been alive, but no, instead I thought I'd give you a heads-up on some really hardcore teachers and students. Last week, 120 trainee teachers in the state of Michoacan were arrested by police after a fierce battle broke out over changes to the curriculum. Furious that English and IT were being imposed upon students from what is a heavily rural state, the guys decided to occupy three of their campuses, hijack passing vehicles and city buses (40, in total) and hold the drivers hostage.
Since the dispute has been going on since the beginning of the month, the police decided to move in and regain control. The students defended the seized campus by throwing rocks, homemade rockets and setting fire to the hijacked vehicles to use them as road blocks. Eventually the police wrested back control of the buildings in a battle that saw a number of them wounded. I guess the lesson here is not to underestimate how seriously Mexican students take their education. America, who knew? Mexicans aren't lazy after all. Especially if you try to stop them farming.
Hey there, Panama, welcome to the WPU! In case you are wondering, this is not something you should be proud of, especially when you're shooting your own citizens over the sale of a city called Colon. Despite its unfortunate name, the Panamanian government must really love this bit of land as they sent in special forces to deal with protests against the sale of the state-owned, duty-free area to private multinational companies.
The protests had already been going on for days, when on Friday security forces opened fire on the crowds with live ammunition, killing a nine-year-old boy and injuring scores of others. The shooting did not do much to deter the protesters though, who came out in force over the weekend to burn down a number of state-owned businesses (including a gas station owned by the manager of the duty-free zone, Leopoldo Benedetti). Protesters are angry at the sale because of the possibilty of job losses and a weakened local economy. They say the sale of the land won't make up for the rent revenue in the long run.
Kosovo is WPU's third debutant this week, though happily they're not dealing with another ethnic genocide this time round. Police and protesters in the capital Pristina went toe-to-toe on Monday over the resumption of talks between Kosovo and its former boss, Serbia. Turns out there are quite a few severely vexed hardliners in Kosovo who want nothing to do with the Serbs.
Talking to Reuters, Vetevendosje deputy leader Shpend Ahmeti said: "This was a shameful meeting, after all the crimes in Kosovo, no one has taken responsibility or apologised." Kosovan freedom-fighter-turned-Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, on the other hand, risked sparking further violence when he said the protesters shared the same agenda as people opposing Kosovo's independence. More EU-mediated talks are set for November, so I imagine we'll be talking about Kosovo again soon.
Last week, we looked at how the Syrian army's air supremacy was being challenged by the Free Syrian Army, who had succeeded in attacking a number of air bases and looting their valuable anti-air missiles. Since then, we saw one more Syrian helicopter fall prey to the FSA in the rather remarkable video above. Of course, a few anti-air missiles won't bring down the whole Syrian air force but what this has achieved is to force the regime's planes higher into the air, causing their attacks to be less accurate.
Sort of a blessing for the thousands of civilians caught under the near-constant barrage in towns such as Maarat Al Numan, who, on top of having to deal with cluster bombs, now have to face fuel air bombs, too – both of which ironically rely less on being accurate than they do purely devastating:
As the civil war drags on, the regime's arsenal seems to become crueler and less mindful of civilian casualties. Fuel air bombs are designed to increase the number of deaths and damage buildings, owing to a longer blast wave than most munitions. In some forms, the bombs release a cloud of vapour upon impact that can fill buildings, bunkers and open areas and can then be ignited. The effect on the human body is particularly unpleasant, with those near the ignition point routinely suffering obliteration. Those at the fringes are most likely to suffer internal injuries, including burst eardrums, crushed inner ear organs, severe concussions, ruptured lungs and internal organs and blindness.
Further north in Aleppo, the Syrian army shelled yet another bakery in an attack that was likely not an accident and left at least 20 dead. Attacks like these are unfortunately not uncommon in the hotly contested nothern city and only give greater impetus to the efforts to bring forward a ceasefire – an issue being raised among the international community yet again.
The ceasefire put forward by the joint UN/Arab League envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, is aimed for the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha. At this point, after so many failed ceasefires and monitoring missions, any ceasefire needs sufficient backing from both the regime and the rebels as well as their backers to be successful, or else massacres like the above will continue and the civilians will again be left to suffer the slaughter.
Check back next week if you'd like to know whether the rest of the world pulled its head out of its ass and finally got round to caring about Syria, and which of the planet's governments were happiest to crack some civilian skulls.
Follow Henry on Twitter: @Henry_Langston