World Notes: Cuba, Romania, Bolivia, Palestine, Kenya, India

Cuba: Government dialogue with Catholic Church evokes hope

Hunger striker Orlando Zapata’s recent death, marches by the dissident Ladies in White, prisoner Guillermo Fariña’s new hunger strike, and a recharged international media barrage have conspired to embolden U.S. and EU intransigence against Cuba. Yet the four hour meeting May 19 of President Raul Castro, Havana Archbishop Jaime Ortega, and aides hinted at a break in the stalemate. Discussion centered on prisoners and the Ladies in White, and reports circulated afterwards that prisoners would be moved to jails close to families and that the sickest of them would be hospitalized.  The Church has taken on an ongoing mediation role.  According to the report on, Archbishop Ortega characterized the dialogue as “different and new,” as “about Cuba, this moment, and Cuba’s future.”

Romania: Popular resistance triggers repression

To meet debt obligations, the government has fashioned policies aimed at cutting public sector jobs and reducing already low salaries and pension benefits. In response, 50,000 people protested May 19 in central Bucharest.  Public transport services stopped, teachers stayed away from classes, hospitals attended to emergency cases only, and public administrators stayed home. Unions are preparing for a nationwide general strike in early June, timed to follow expected parliamentary approval of the austerity measures. Such was the setting for the parliament’s recent passage of “political cleansing” legislation that deprives communists, real or imagined, of future political responsibilities. Thus emerged, reported a rebelió blogger, “a new manifestation of fascism masked under the label of liberalism.” 

Bolivia: Morales defends Mother Earth

Returning May 23 from Europe, President Evo Morales called for suspension of the United Nations Climate Change Summit set for Cancun, Mexico in December. He suggested that differences between proposals articulated at the recently concluded Peoples’ Climate Change Summit in Bolivia and the UN Climate Change Summit last year in Copenhagen are too wide to be bridged. Morales projected a political campaign aimed at persuading industrialized nations, notably the United States, to adopt measures that would limit the rise of global temperatures to one degree C. Another failed climate summit, he told TeleSUR, would provoke loss of hope in governments and the United Nations itself. Morales envisions a Latin American – European alliance directed toward combating climate change.

Palestine: Documentation emerges as to U.S. support for apartheid road system

Reporter Jonathan Cook this month accused the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) of bankrolling 71 miles, or 23 percent, of Israeli new road construction in the Palestinian West Bank over ten years.  Israel’s B’Tselem human rights group claims the purpose of the road network to be separation of Israeli settlers from Palestinians, many of whom lost homes and land to builders.  Some 105 miles of new road remain off limits to Palestinians. The USAID itself reports financial assistance over ten years for Israeli construction of 146 miles of new roads, with projected spending this year for 74 more miles. Total USAID 2010 outlay for West Bank infrastructure projects comes to $153 million, up from $65 million last year.

Kenya:  Fish yield is down, as water temperatures rise

Data from sediment cores suggest that surface temperatures of Lake Tanganyika, East Africa’s second largest inland water, have risen progressively over 1,500 years with accelerated warming over the past 90 years. U. S. scientists writing for Nature Geoscience attribute recent temperature elevations to global warming caused by human activities. Having reported too that the Lake’s fish catch has trended downward, they pioneered in linking diminished productivity to rising lake temperatures, according to Paul Redfern. The fishery’s current estimated annual catch of 200,000 tons provides employment and, crucially, dietary protein for 10 million people living in the region. UN environmental specialists based in Nairobi warn that other African lakes are undergoing similar processes of deterioration.

India: EU free trade agreement meets opposition

A statement issued May 23 by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) took the governing United Progressive Alliance, with the Congress Party at its head, to task for an European Union-India free trade agreement alleged to have been negotiated in secrecy.  If discussions concluding in October hold, EU agri-business will be inundating India with subsidized farm products, and EU rules will define intellectual property in ways that put restrictions on the Indian generic drug industry and on farmers’ access to seeds. The proposed treaty, says the statement, will place already beleaguered Indian manufacturers at risk through “massive cuts in import duties on industrial goods.”  The statement at asks that negotiations cease pending deliberations by Parliament and state government.

Photo: A section of the wall in the East Jerusalem area cuts off farmers from their land. (Susan Webb/PW)




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.