Bolivia: Cuba aids flood victims

Cuban doctors joined rescue efforts after heavy rains caused flooding in eastern Bolivia. In Beni, flooding accompanied by hail, sleet and continuing rain displaced over 80,000 people. Overall 343,000 people had been affected as of Feb. 21 with 35 deaths recorded. Drowned cattle totaled 11,000.

Civil defense authorities released 800,000 tons of food, although mudslides on highways blocked access.

Cuban doctors arrived in Bolivia a year ago in response to flooding that victimized some 40,000 families. They number 1,771 now, and 400 of them are carrying out rescue work in eight affected regions. Working in camps for the evacuated, they treat infectious diseases and trauma, organize preventative measures and provide health education. Over the past year Cuban doctors in 236 municipalities have carried out 3,617,434 patient visits. Cuba has donated 20 hospitals and 11 eye-care centers where the vision of 66,398 Bolivians has been restored or improved.

UK: Venezuelan oil helps Londoners

London Mayor Ken Livingston has taken up Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’ offer last May, when Chavez was visiting London, to provide poor neighborhoods in the English capital with low cost oil.

Under the arrangement, signed Feb. 20 by Livingston and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicholas Maduro, the Greater London Authority will be able to provide half-price bus service to some 250,000 low-income Londoners.

Venezuela will provide $32 million worth of diesel fuel for London buses in return for Authority staff members’ expertise in Venezuelan projects like housing, transport, environmental cleanups, policing and tourism.

Australia: No free ride for U.S. military bases

Resistance is building in Australia to military ties between the right-wing John Howard government and the Bush administration.

The Australian government recently announced plans for a U.S. satellite-monitoring base 231 miles north of Perth. The Guardian cites defense experts claiming that U.S. bases, intended for U.S. wars in the Middle East and Asia, spell the end of Australian neutrality and will become military targets.

At $56 million a day, Australia’s military spending exceeds its spending on education. Most goes for U.S. war plans rather than for national defense.

A chorus of critics has pointed out high crime rates around U.S. bases, especially sexual assaults.

In June, activists with the Anti-Bases Campaign will camp out in Queensland to protest U.S.-Australian war games involving 20,000 troops. The campaign says the purpose is to ask: “Why are we preparing for another Iraq?”

Iran: New evidence of U.S. military incursions

Iranian officials have accused the U.S.- and Britain of orchestrating a series of bombings inside Iran along its borders with Iraq in the west and Pakistan and Afghanistan in the east. The purpose, they say, is to heighten sectarian and ethnic divisions within Iran.

Representatives of the UN, Human Rights Watch and other groups were invited to Tehran to view documents and captured weapons allegedly showing that U.S.- and British-trained agents bombed a bus Feb. 10 in the southeastern city of Zaheda. Twelve people died and 24 were wounded.

The captured bombers said English-speakers had trained them. UPI intelligence correspondent Richard Sale called the Iranian accusations true. The reports appearing on cite journalist Seymour Hersh who wrote last year in the New Yorker that “teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran … to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups.”

Kenya: Salt mine workers are abused

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights recently released a report accusing owners of the Malindi, Krystalline and Mombasa salt harvesting companies of violating human rights.

The report, based on data collected last year, cites low pay, undue reliance on temporary workers, lack of protective gear, inadequate medical supervision, unsafe transportation, unsafe and unsanitary factory conditions and restrictions on union organizing.

Companies were also shown to have contaminated fresh water sources used by surrounding communities to force inhabitants to abandon homes and land, allowing companies to expand operations. Much of the underground salt seepage and contamination was, of course, unplanned.

Local police and provincial officials colluded with the owners in harassing workers and community members. The reports appearing on contained recommendations for change but did not indicate enforcement mechanisms. The commission did suggest, “The situation is exacerbated by the absence of or ineffective recruitment strategies of trade unions.”

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