Guatemala: Small farmers occupy large estates

An estimated 800 gun- and machete-wielding “employees” and private security guards moved in to eject some 230 families from an estate called Finca Mocca in northern Guatemala on July 7, killing nine people in the process. Daniel Pascual, leader of the Campesino Unity Committee, charged that the landowner had provided the guards and “employees” with arms. This was the fourth time that families had occupied the land and been driven away. The Weekly News Update on the Americas reported also that, from June 29 to July 2, landless peasants seized six government-owned estates in protests against the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement. They are currently occupying a total of 20 private estates and 10 government-owned estates as a means of pressuring the government to distribute land. In Guatemala, fewer than 2 percent of the population own 60 percent of the land.

Indonesia: International support grows for striking security workers

In Jakarta, workers reoccupied offices of the Indonesian subsidiary of Group 4 Securicor, the world’s largest private security firm on July 4. The conglomerate fired 235 workers last year after a strike over working conditions. Indonesia’s Supreme Court ruled the firing illegal. The security workers’ union is fighting for back pay and full reinstatement, including for union leaders.

Unionists are camped full-time outside company offices in Jakarta. Parliamentary delegations have been visiting the workers. Police interrogation of union President Dedy Toisutta on company-inspired charges resumed on July 11.

The London-based Group 4 Securicor employs 400,000 people in 100 countries. It is known as Wackenhut in the U.S.

Labor activists from Indonesia, India, Uganda and the U.S., including former Rep. David Bonior among them, interrupted the company’s annual general meeting in London on June 29 to demand rights for Securicor workers. Thousands of letters supporting the Indonesian workers have descended on corporation headquarters according to Labourstart.org.

Caribbean: Caricom nations choose Venezuela

Caribbean Community of Nations (CARICOM) officials meeting in St. Kitts chose Venezuela to replace Argentina on the UN Security Council in October. The U.S. campaigned hard for Guatemala over Venezuela. A July 6 CARICOM statement said that Venezuela had received unanimous support to fill the two-year rotating slot. Caribbean leaders were unhappy about Guatemala’s reliance upon U.S. promotion rather than on its own efforts.

A report appearing on Vheadlines.com referred to countries’ displeasure with Guatemala’s opposition, within the World Trade Organization, to preferential access for Caribbean bananas in European markets. They also objected to Guatemala’s claims in a border dispute with neighboring Belize as exaggerated.

Angola: Famine, disease hit despite economic growth

According to a national crop assessment published last week by the UN’s World Food Program (WFP), more than 800,000 people in Angola — population 16 million — will require food aid for one year. Four years after the end of a civil war lasting 27 years, farmland remains uncultivated due to inadequate roads and transportation services, residual land mines, and now drought. Donor support has waned “to the extent that we will not be able to distribute food from next month” on, according to a WFP spokesperson. For the past four months, the Angolan people have also confronted a cholera epidemic that has killed over 2,000 people and infected 49,000. Contradictions are not lost upon analysts who note worsening hunger and spread of preventable disease in a country expected to benefit from $16.8 billion in oil revenues this year — double that of 2004 — and an 18 percent economic growth rate in 2005.

Global health: Cuba serves South Africa, East Timor

After five years of no-cost medical study in Cuba, the first group of South African students graduated July 10 in Pretoria. Twenty-two of them had returned to complete internships and take final examinations. A Health Ministry spokesperson told the Cuban newspaper Granma that the new physicians “are committed to work in the public health sector for at least five years.”

In addition, 286 Cuban doctors are responding to immediate health needs throughout East Timor, where they are engaged in building a health care system. Dr. Francisco Medina told an Australian interviewer on July 4 that he anticipates a six-year stay in East Timor, where problems “are very similar to all the poor nations … malaria, tuberculosis, infant mortality.” He added, “We are just some of the 27,000 Cuban doctors working in 69 countries.” Cuba is funding a new medical facility for East Timor, and 300 East Timorese medical students are studying in Cuba.

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

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