World Notes

Canada: Legislation would spotlight mining corporation crimes

Canada is home for 60 percent of the world’s mining corporations. Some have made the news recently: Blackfire Exploration is tied to the murder of one anti-mining activist in Chiapas, Mexico. Pacific Rim Company is implicated in the killing of two others in El Salvador. Goldcorp Inc. allegedly released toxic amounts of heavy metals in Honduras. Barrick Gold employees in New Guinea are accused of rape and pillage. That corporation is charged with environmental abuse in Chile, anti- union persecution in Argentina, and a toxic spill in Tanzania last May that killed 20 people. 

Liberal Parliamentarian John McKay last week introduced a bill that would, according to, “empower the Canadian federal government to investigate complaints of human rights and environmental abuses leveled against mining companies.” Canadian human rights activists fault the bill, designated as C-300, for lack of sanctions and undue reliance upon corporations’ “social responsibility.” They agree that the bill, which is unlikely to pass, promotes public education.

South Africa: ANC leader says nationalize the bank

Conferring recently with leaders of the African National Congress, ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe called for nationalizing the South African Reserve Bank. Any ANC action must, however, await its next party conference in 2012. Mantashe, who is also chairperson of the South African Communist Party, noted that only South Africa and eight other nations allow private ownership of national banks. The SACP and the COSATU labor federation had earlier demanded the bank lower interest rates, which have been kept high to combat inflation to promote job growth. COSATU, quoted by Bloomberg news last week, described as “a dangerous anomaly that a body which should be protecting the public interest when it makes decisions on interest rates… should be owned by a group of anonymous private shareholders.”

Dominican Republic: Conservative constitution is adopted

Accompanied by cannon salutes and singing of the national anthem, President Leonel Fernández last week presented a new constitution to the National Assembly that, disguised as a “Review Assembly”, had already approved the document, with both major parties participating. Political leaders took turns reading through 277 articles. Leftist critics denounced the constitution, which took effect immediately, for its conservative orientation, for the lack of a constituent assembly, and for its Article 30, which prohibits abortion under all circumstances: The “death penalty” is prohibited from conception until birth. The Chamber of Deputies took on additional members, and municipal and parliamentary elections were unified. According to TeleSur, 13 legal experts extensively re-edited the version of the constitution which was returned to the National Assembly.

Taiwan: Economic negotiations proceed under a cloud

Negotiations were underway last week in Beijing over an “economic cooperation agreement” promoted by Taiwan’s rightwing President Ma Ying-jeou. Critics see the designation of a “Cross-Strait Economic Cooperatio Agreement” as a downgrading of Taiwanese status achieved in WTO talks, namely as the “The Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan.” For the Taiwan News, that label represents “a legally precise status distinct from and equal to the PRC that is guaranteed by multilateral treaty.” The editorial calls for any economic accord to be submitted to a popular referendum.

Looming over the talks was approval in Washington last week of a $6 billion arms package for Taiwan including helicopters and missiles. The U.S. government is implementing its 1979 Taiwan Relations Act aimed at bolstering Taiwanese defense against mainland threats, according to

Afghanistan: Conference signals strategy shift

Last week’s London conference on war in Afghanistan, attended by representatives of 65 nations, hinted at momentum toward non-military settlement, reported Reuters. President Hamid Karzai will be convening a “grand council” on peace involving tribal elders, Taliban leaders included. Rejection of Al Qaeda will be required. UN officials negotiated with Taliban leaders in early January. Taliban soldiers are being targeted through poverty relief efforts. The World Bank and IMF announced cancelation of $1.6 billion in debt, the conference pledged $140 million toward job promotion, and the Karzai government demanded that 50 percent of foreign aid go toward developmental projects, up from 20 percent. With Afghan poppy production accounting for 80 percent of the world supply of opiates, Washington last week designated agriculture as the top U.S. “non-security priority” there, pledging $20 million in aid. Recent UN huan development indicators put Afghanistan one up from the bottom, among all nations.

Cuba: U.S. shuns Cuban humanitarians in Haiti

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told reporters last week that following the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, his ministry assured the U.S. State Department of Cuba’s desire for collaboration in providing humanitarian aid “on the ground.” Within hours of the catastrophe, Cuba opened up air space for U.S. flights to cut flying time to Haiti. Later Cuba invited U.S. aid workers to utilize Cuban services already in place, particularly its 450 doctors and 17 surgical teams. Rodriguez lamented U.S. failure to acknowledge Cuba’s invitation for cooperation, reported Cubadebate. In a recent “Reflection,” former Cuban President Fidel Castro reported, however, that U.S. authorities have not interfered with Cuban humanitarian deliveries.


Photo: Community representatives of affected indigenous communities in Papua New Guinea, Chile and Australia traveled great distances to come to Toronto last year to speak out against the world’s largest gold mining corporation, Barrick Gold, regarding their gold mining operations where they live. Allan Lissner



W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.