Tunisia: Unexpected street heat
Tunisians rose up late last month in what IPS news calls "unprecedented street protests ... against the police state of President Ben Ali," notable for its pro-Western orientation. Protesting the confiscation of his fruit and vegetable cart, an unemployed university graduate set himself on fire. That action triggered popular mobilizations in Sidi Bouzid and other cities. The background is of economic disparities between regions, privatization of state agencies, reduced subsidies for the poor, and rising unemployment, now estimated at 14 percent. After 12 days of mass arrests, shootings, killings, house to house searches, media repression, and alleged torture, the regime replaced five cabinet ministers on December 29. Social networking websites contributed significantly to the unprecedented uprising, according to Magharebia.com.
India: Communists prevail in municipal elections
Municipal election results in Tripura on December 11 blunted speculation as to possible decline of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Left Front following disappointing outcomes earlier this year in Kerala and West Bengal local elections. Statewide, the CPI(M) won 180 seats; the Communist Party of India, four; and Left Front partner parties, three. Congress party candidates took the remaining 43 seats. Communists secured control of 13 of 15 municipalities. Earlier voting in rural areas of Tripura also favored the Communists, who, according to Kaosenlared.net, face significant difficulties in West Bengal assembly elections in 2011.
Honduras: Killings of reporters continue
On December 29, investigative journalist Henry Suazo became the tenth Honduran reporter killed during 2010. No perpetrator has been identified for any of the murders. . Pagina 12 reported speculation by human rights activist Bertha Oliva that Suazo was vulnerable because of his father's leadership role in land reform agitation. President Porfirio Lobo has requested crime-solving assistance from Colombia and the United States, countries accepting the military coup that removed President Manuel Zelaya in June, 2009. The Congress is presently considering legislation aimed at blocking international news reports hostile to the government. According to Congress President Juan Orlando Hernández, a probable future presidential candidate, the law would "somewhat regulate the tone in which this kind of news is reported."
Iraq: Further confirmation of babies harmed in US war
A study appearing this month in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health confirms earlier reports of a skewed gender ratio and serious birth defects among babies born in Fallujah, according Guardian.com.uk. At issue is an eleven-fold increase above normal for major birth defects, with 15 percent of 547 babies born in Fallujah in May, 2010 suffering brain, skeletal, and cardiac defects. Obstetricians there complain of being overwhelmed. The report suggests "weaponry used in US assaults" - specifically depleted uranium - could account for the public health disaster. Uncertainty continues as to whether "radiation-derived mutational effects" or chemical toxicity is primarily responsible, reports PressTV. The incidence of cancers and birth defects has skyrocketed also in Najaf and Basra.
Greece: Communist Parties claim persecution
On December 29 the Greek Communist Party released a joint statement from 38 European communist and workers' parties condemning anti-communist demands put to the European Union by foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic. The statement, appearing on solidnet.org, denounces an attempt to extend "criminalization of communists and communism" instituted in single countries to the entire EU. The authors reject in advance any EU sanctions against those protesting "reactionary campaigns of rewriting of history." The statement defends communist contributions "to social and labour rights and for democracy in Europe" and denounces "the unacceptable equation of communism with fascism." It attributes resurgent anti-communism to the juxtaposition of economic crisis and newly strengthened, left led, popular mobilizations.
Photo: Tunisian lawyers Abdraouf Ayadi, left, and Chokri Belaod, right, at a press conference at the lawyers' Bar in Tunis, Dec. 29, 2010. Ayadi and Belaod were arrested for supporting protests over unemployment in the central town of Sidi Bouzid. Hassene Dridi/AP