World Notes: Australia, Iran, Cuba and more

Democratic Republic of Congo: Women act against violence

The gathering October 14-17 of the World March of Women in Bukavu, in eastern DR Congo, was a “singular experience of popular diplomacy and international solidarity,” according to  Dealing with the region’s epidemic anti-women violence, thousands of women from 48 countries, including 900 from the DRC, held panel discussions, demonstrated in the city’s streets and heard from public officials. They traveled four hours to Mwenga to commemorate the horror of women buried alive there in 1998. Participants inveighed against mercenary troops, particularly Rwandan soldiers, using rape as a weapon of wars that aim to seize underground mineral wealth. In mid-September, the United Nations Security Council urged the DRC to clamp down on perpetrators.  

Australia: Global warming hits coral reefs

Marine scientists reported on October 19 that coral reefs in waters off Southeast Asia and in the eastern Indian Ocean are dying from unprecedented bleaching. They attributed whitening and death of coral to sharply rising ocean temperatures recorded last spring.   “It may prove to be the worst such event known to science” and it’s “almost certainly a consequence of global warming,” declared researcher Andrew Baird, quoted by Agence France Presse. Pointing to fish dependency on coral, the scientists warned of declining fish stocks with “local extinctions,” loss of biodiversity and waning tourist revenue derived from the Great Barrier Reef. The Australian Guardian newspaper called upon the government to “cut greenhouse pollution by at least 60 percent by 2050.”

Iran: Nuclear weapons development seen as unlikely

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, told that agency on November 1 that his country would never make the “strategic mistake” of building nuclear bombs. He said Iran, unable to match the nuclear weaponry of nuclear-armed powers, is “as strong as those countries without nuclear weapons.” A few days earlier, Iran had indicated readiness to restart negotiations with the major powers over its nuclear program. Reuters reported that nuclear disarmament expert Gareth Evans told the IAEA that Iran “is to be taken seriously when it says it will not actually weaponize.” Evans added that any removal of sanctions against Iran would have to be accompanied by Iranian acceptance of strict monitoring.

Russia: Labor protection is precarious

The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs seeks to modify the Russian Federation Labor Code, in effect since 2002, that contains Soviet-era worker protection measures.  Russian news outlets reported that on November 1 the employer group called for return of the 60-hour work week and fixed-term labor contracts. Company owners want freedom to fire employees on short notice and hold back on study leave allowances. Supporters say new rules would provide legal cover for workers already holding down two jobs. The Chairperson of the State Duma Committee for Labor and Social Politics discounted chances the proposed package would become law, particularly because Russia would lose competitive advantage over countries “not willing to make farm animals of their employees”. 

Venezuela: Steel corporation, housing developments nationalized

President Hugo Chávez recently announced nationalization of the Sidetur steel company, manufacturer of materials used in construction of homes, bridges, and infrastructure. The state will also take over 14 housing developments, some under construction and others ready for occupation. Sidetur, operator of six manufacturing plants and multiple scrap- metal centers, is accused of manipulating the pricing of construction material. reports that Sidetur’s inability to guarantee delivery of products has interfered with planning. The government’s action is in line with its prioritization of new housing and its efforts “to create a national construction industry.” Venezuela’s largest steel manufacturer Sidor was nationalized in 2009. Sidetur workers reportedly favor their company’s expropriation, not least because they see an opening for worker control of production.

Cuba: Serving Haiti

By November 3, cholera deaths were up 40 percent in four days to 442, and a hurricane was bearing down. The $50 million Clinton Bush Haiti Fund had indicated, “Other organizations … deliver immediate humanitarian aid. We are using our resources to focus on long-term development.” Cuba is in the first category. Norway agreed on October 30 to provide an $850,000 medical aid package to be utilized by 930 Cuban doctors in Haiti to prevent and treat cholera, present there for the first time in 100 years. Rather than return home to Argentina, Dr. Emiliano Mariscal, a recent graduate of Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine, was working in Haiti with the Cuban doctors.  As quoted by, he was “proud to be part of another page, among many, of Cuban internationalism, proud to be a son of American lands, committed throughout to my homeland, which is Latin America, and to my compatriots, who are sons of that soil.”

Image: Pere Ubu // CC BY-NC 2.0


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.