Italy: Migrant crisis is explosive
Italy's Lampedusa Island in the Mediterranean lies 100 miles east of Tunisia, 175 miles north of Libya. For desperate African migrants, the tiny island is a way station to Europe. Now, turmoil in Northern Africa has resulted in 18,500 migrants stuck there without food or shelter. Some 2,000 arrived on March 28 alone. They come in open boats, escorted by naval vessels. Local fishermen have now anchored those boats at the harbor entrance in barricade fashion. They and their neighbors have "exploded," according to rebelion.org. The Italian government is accused of delaying naval transfer of the migrants to detention centers elsewhere in Italy in order to create a dramatic, emergency situation, the better to persuade northern European governments to lend Italy a hand.
Yemen: Govt. faces secession, humanitarian crisis
The precarious regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh is facing growing threats from secessionist movements, particularly Shi'ite Houthi rebels allied to Iran operating in Northern provinces, and the Southern Movement, heir to the former South Yemen socialist government that ended in 1994. Arab News reported March 28 that central government forces have already lost battles for control of Saada, Jawf, and Abyan in the North and Shabwa Province in the South. Looming over this political seesaw is a giant humanitarian crisis. UN Humanitarian Affairs spokesperson Valerie Amos cites 300,000 displaced persons in the North. Severe water and food shortages, exacerbated by drought, have left 2.7 million people facing starvation. Some 40 percent of Yemeni children are malnourished.
Japan: Working families face rough road
In addition to earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear plant disasters, working people will soon be confronting serious economic troubles. The situation for many is already precarious. Some 15 percent of Tokyo residents depended on welfare payments in January, before "industrial restructuring," added two million more recipient households. Following the earthquake, the government is re-thinking its monthly child care allowance, increased last year. Resort to charitable donations will take on importance. The government expects that costs of recovery and diminished industrial production will result in economic growth falling to 0.5 percent annually. Preliminary estimates allot $309 billion for recovery costs for quake-affected areas. That will exacerbate an already severe debt crisis, with dire effects on social spending, according to Inter Press Service.
Pakistan: Relations with Washington are strained
Part of the arrangements under which the government released U.S. citizen Raymond Davis, accused of murdering two Pakistani civilians, was U.S. acquiescence in eventually withdrawing 331 U.S. officials from Pakistan, specifically those who are, like Davis, "suspected of engaging in espionage under diplomatic cover." According to Indian Express on March 24, the U.S. employees would be required to leave "voluntarily" within a specified, but unknown, time. Pakistan would not classify them as "persona non grata." The U.S. agreed to increase military aid and to subject candidates for diplomatic immunity to mandatory scrutiny. Another marker of precarious U.S.- Pakistan relations surfaced the same day in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, when 800 student activists joined tribesmen in protesting a recent drone attack which killed 44 people.
Bolivia: USAID on the way out
On March 29, the Movement toward Socialism (MAS) Party, which holds a majority in the Bolivian Chamber of Deputies, offered legislation aimed at expelling the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). MAS parliamentary leader Edwin Tupa indicated the measure would also be establishing norms regulating in-country functioning of foreign NGO's. Reports would be required as to sources of foreign money invested in Bolivia .The USAID is "another link in Washington's interference in [our] internal affairs, under the mask of cooperation," he told TeleSur. The legislator made reference also to U.S. clandestine groups still active in the country engaged in destabilization. In June 2010, President Evo Morales threaten to expel USAID, alleging conspiratorial activities, but backed off because legislative approval could not be obtained at that time.
Cuba: Continuing revelations on U.S. subversion
Pediatric cardiologist Manuel Collera appeared on television March 28 as another in a series unmasking US intelligence agents in Cuba. Beginning in 2000 he befriended U.S. and Canadian visitors bringing humanitarian aid. His U.S. assigned job, reports Cubadebate.cu, was to identify Cubans to receive the humanitarian aid, using it as entrée into antigovernment activities. He conferred often with U.S. government representatives. The U.S. Interests Section in Havana arranged contacts with North American visitors. The Donner Foundation of Canada and Pan American Foundation for Development served as conduits of money to fund anti-government projects in Cuba. Jean Guy Allard reported recently that USAID, which funded the latter group, joined the U.S. State Department this year in spending $30 million on Internet destabilization projects.