Israel: U.S. support is unflagging
Quoted recently by the Middle East Monitor, Palestinian official Abdul Hadi Hantash said, “The US veto gave a green light to the Israelis to push ahead with their illegal settlement policy.” He was referring to the U.S. veto last month of a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli construction in the Occupied Territories. Since the ending last October of a partial settlement freeze, construction has begun on 427 new houses, a 60 percent rise. Washington provides “basic support for Israel to impose new settlement facts on the grounds,” he claimed. As another sign of steadfastness in U.S.- Israeli relations, Ha’aretz on March 8, indicated that Israel was considering a 20 billion U.S. military aid request on the pretext of regional turmoil.
Philippines: Arab world turmoil imperils migrant workers
The government of the Philippines indicated March 8 that having allocated $12 million for repatriation, almost half of 30,000 Filipinos working temporarily in Libya have returned. Those remaining are running out of food, water, and money. Many arriving hurriedly at the Tunisian border had lost documents and were turned back. ERIN news reports one tenth of Filipinos work overseas. Funds they send home add 12 percent to the GDP. Bangladeshi migrant workers, many previously displaced from land, contribute a likeproportion to their nation’s GDP. Up to 80,000 of them were working in Libya, yet only 500 or so per day have succeeded in leaving. The Overseas Employment Minister promised to “continue exporting manpower to other countries. We are looking for new markets.”
Guatemala: Murders of women reach epidemic proportions
Government figures show 685 women were murdered last year. An Amnesty International (AI) report released March 7 blames the government for failing to protect women. AI demands that murders be investigated and that both police training and court proceedings be improved. Less than four percent of perpetrators face prosecution even though a law was passed in 2008 specifying the criminal nature of anti-women violence and establishing special tribunals and sentencing rules. On March 5 alone, six women were killed. Human Rights activist Evelyn Morales, quoted in the Kaosenlared report, expressed concern also that women’s heath status was deteriorating, as signaled recently by unfavorable statistics. Other advocates insist that an education campaign be mounted focusing on women’s sexual and reproductive rights.
Native American abused women appeal to UN
Rashida Manjoo, U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women, recently toured the United States as she assessed abuse against U.S. women and particularly against Native American women. The latter “face the highest rates of sexual violence and physical assault of any group in the United States,” says the Indian Law Resource Center. Non – Natives are responsible for 60 – 80 percent of such crimes. Manjoo will soon be communicating her findings to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Inter Press Service reported recently. Cherokee lawyer Terri Henry told IPS, “Since 1978 our tribal government, like all Indian nations, has been stripped of the authority to prosecute rapists and abusers that are non-Indians.” A Justice Department task force on the matter is being formed.
Japan: Free trade battle heats up
Japan has remained on the sidelines of negotiations among nine Pacific Rim nations over forming the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), seen as prelude to a larger Asia-Pacific free trade agreement. Prime Minister Kan Naoto’s TPP advocacy, announced last October, has set up battle lines, however. The Agriculture Ministry late last month warned that the TPP would cause 3.5 million agriculture, forestry, and fishery workers to lose jobs, while free trade legislator Eda Kenji called for farmland consolidation and corporation involvement in farming. Rallying on February 19, The JNEP labor, environmental, and farmers’ coalition declared its opposition to the TPP. Speakers cited by the Japan Press Service mentioned fossil fuel wastage and excess carbon dioxide emissions as adverse effects of food importations required by the treaty.
Cuba: UN Human Rights Council hears of the Cuban Five
Speaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 8, Cuban diplomat Juan Antonio Quintanilla denounced the incarceration in U. S. prisons of Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labañino, Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez. According to the Cuban News Agency, Quintanilla reminded the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that the trial of the Five was biased and that defense attorneys were denied access to documents available to prosecutors. The Working Group had already ruled in 2005 that their detention was arbitrary. Like Cuban spokespersons before him, the official demanded that the U.S. government free the men who at the time of their arrests in Florida 12 years ago were defending Cuba against terrorist attacks.