China: BRICS group of nations meets
Heads of states comprising the BRIC group of nations – Brazil, Russia, India, and China – held their third meeting April 14 in China’s Hainan province. President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, whose country is now part of the group, joined them. Liu Youfa of the China Institute of International Studies indicated that BRICS, as it’s now referred to, was meeting “because of the similar economic development stage they are in.” There was no political agenda. Yet People’s Daily, commenting on the gathering, opined that “Western countries, led by the United States and France, organized a coalition and rudely interfered in Libya’s civil affairs.” BRICS nations last year accounted for 18 percent of global GDP in 2010, with intra-group trade growing 28 percent over eight years.
Hungary: Labor marches
An estimated 50,000 unionists affiliated with the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) marched in Budapest April 9 in protest against European Union (EU) “reforms” aimed at cutting wages and pensions in member nations. The demonstration was timed with a two day meeting of EU finance ministers there, who confirmed they would be pressuring financially beleaguered Portugal into spending cuts in return for a $115-billion EU bailout. “We want jobs, growth, our welfare state intact, and we are not going to pay for bankers’ mistakes,” declared ETUC general secretary John Monks. The Deutsche Welle report predicts average EU deficits will fall from 6.8 percent in 2010 to 5.1 percent this year, short of the 3 percent EU recommendation.
Ivory Coast: French military role seems likely
Reports surfaced soon after President Laurent Gbagbo’s removal from power that the French military engineered his capture on April 11. Communist Party parliamentary deputy Roland Muzeau, cited by L’Humanite, rejected his government’s denial of a military intrusion, noting, “There is a considerable amount of doubt.” Leftist European Parliament members also protested. One of them, Slovenian Ivo Vajgl, observed, “We simply jump from one area (referring to Libya) to another…we are moving back to 19th Century colonialism.” France, announcing $580 million in aid to its former colony, denied the charge, and EU spokespersons defended the UN sanctioned intervention, pointing to humanitarian goals. Strife between the Muslim North and Christian South has, since the Ivory Coast’s 2002 Civil War, fueled instability in the world’s leading cocoa producing country.
Palestine Authority: Preparations for statehood intensify
In preparation for a donor country meeting, the United Nations issued a report April 12 testifying to progress by Palestinian leaders toward building institutions for a Palestinian state. The Palestinian Authority issued its own report for the meeting claiming to have effectively used financial assistance, reported Reuters, to create “health, education, energy, water, security, justice, and housing services.” The target date for readiness is September, when Palestinian delegates at the UN General Assembly, representing the occupied territories and Gaza, will seek statehood recognition. The UN report expresses concern over adverse social economic conditions in Gaza and lack of meaningful Palestinian Authority presence there. IMEMC News reports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying unilateral Palestinian action “will push the peace process backwards.”
Costa Rica: Accused terrorist extradited to Venezuela
A court April 11 ordered the extradition to Venezuela of Henry López Sisco. He had joined Venezuelan state security services in 1966 and is accused of torture and killings. Trained in the United States, he and anti-Cuban terrorist Luis Posada, affiliated with the CIA, collaborated in the 1970’s as top functionaries of Venezuela’s DISIP intelligence agency. A decade later in that capacity, López Sisco and others “perpetrated massacres” of leftist activists, reports Aporrea news. He was the leader of a gang assaulting the Cuban embassy on April 12, 2002 during the unsuccessful coup against President Hugo Chavez. In late 2005, Venezuelan authorities ordered for López Sisco’s arrest in the murder of Attorney General Danilo Anderson. He escaped to Costa Rica the next year.
Cuba: No easy fix for agriculture
Agriculture will be on the agenda of the Communist Party Congress opening in Havana April 16. A recent review traces progress following implementation of a 2008 decree opening up unused, arable land to private farming. Cuba then was spending $1.5 billion annually to import 60 percent of food consumed there. There are now 100,000 new farms on previously idle land, with 50,000 more targeted for 2015. They are in addition to the 350,000 farms functioning as of 2009. Three fourths of formerly unused land delivered to aspiring new farmers is under cultivation. Problems noted by the report on larepublica.es include: ongoing drought, diminished credit availability, delayed processing of land use applications, hurricane recovery costs from 2008, and effects of the U.S. economic blockade. Some 50 percent of arable land remains idle.