WORLDNOTES - January 24, 2009

Bolivia: Morales announces nationalization

Swearing into office 1,500 local officials in Potosi Jan. 6, President Evo Morales announced plans to nationalize foreign-owned companies controlling water, electricity and railroads. His government had previously assumed control over oil and natural gas resources from transnational corporations and nationalized the Italian-owned Entel telephone company.

Reviving the National Electricity Company, the government is targeting U.S. and Spanish domination of the electricity sector. It will also take over a Chilean-owned railroad system. EFE news service noted Morales’ caution that funding is lacking for ongoing investment in nationalized industries. He declared that under the proposed new Bolivian constitution, subject to a Jan. 25 referendum vote, foreign ownership of natural resources will be illegal.





Canada: War resister faces deportation

In Toronto, the Immigration and Refugee Board last week ordered Kimberley Rivera’s return to the United States by Jan. 27. The U.S. soldier, mother of three, two years ago refused to return to gate-guarding duties in Iraq. Instead, she and her family left Fort Carson, Colo. for Canada. “Haunted by the sight of children crying,” according to the Sarnia (Ont.) Observer, she faces court martial and possible imprisonment in the United States.

Deportation hearings are set this month for four more of the estimated 200 Iraq War resisters living in Canada. The House of Commons last June passed a resolution urging the rightwing Stephen Harper government to grant U.S. Iraq War resisters permanent residence in Canada.



India: Distressed truckers strike

Drivers belonging to the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) launched an indefinite strike Jan. 5 to force cuts in expenses. By the fourth day the impact was mixed. The flow of commodities was continuing, although industrial supplies were piling up on loading docks, The Hindu reported.

The strike took a dramatic turn on its third day when drivers gave up ownership of almost 3,000 trucks. ExpressIndia.com quoted AIMTC spokesperson Kultaran Singh Atwal as saying, “We spend nearly 70 per cent of our income on diesel and tires,” apart from tolls and payments on loans. AIMTC leaders sought and received backing from the political bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).



Ghana: Opposition candidate wins presidency

Ghana’s Election Council announced Jan. 2 that law professor John Atta Mills, candidate for president for the National Democratic Congress, had narrowly defeated incumbent Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party in a run-off vote the week before. Both candidates had emphasized Ghana’s potential for international investment, although Mills focused also on decreasing poverty and official corruption.

Ghana’s Institute of Economic Affairs says the prospect is that inflation will rise and trade deficits will grow. Inter Press Service cited testimony that working people are more concerned about rising food prices than about national economic indicators. Ghanaians’ average income is $3.80 per day, one-tenth are unemployed, and 40 percent are illiterate.

Turkey: Sparring over secularist state

The democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, notable for Islamic overtones, arrested 40 secularist government opponents Jan. 7, including retired generals. The next day armed forces head Ilker Basbug initiated a meeting with the prime minister and president.

Al Jazeera reported that to forestall coup attempts, the government has rounded up accused plotters, including army officers, 10 times in recent months. Trials are underway for 86 of them. The military has traditionally led in preserving the secularist orientation of Turkish politics. Since 1960, four army-led coups have taken place.

Analysts see developments last week as aggravating the country’s dire economic circumstances. Turkish industrial output has declined 14 percent over two months.





Cuba: Building materials to increase

President Raul Castro visited a housing project last week near Santiago de Cuba where 100 Venezuelan-designed houses had been built using petroleum byproducts. He took the occasion to announce creation of a state industry to produce materials enabling Cubans to construct their own houses on state-provided land.

Priority given the project stems from a housing shortage estimated at 1 million units, half due to losses from three hurricanes last year. The report on kaosenlared.net emphasizes increased cement production, especially to construct hurricane-resistant buildings. A team at the University of Santa Clara has contributed research on micro-concrete roofing tiles and low-energy fired clay bricks, according to Green Left Weekly.

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit@roadrunner.com)