WORLD NOTES: Dec. 8

Tanzania: ‘Helsinki Process’ deals with globalization

Finland and Tanzania set up the “Helsinki Process on globalization and democracy” in 2003 to provide “a new kind of equal forum” for the North and South, according to Inter Press Service.

A conference that is part of the process opened in Dar es Salaam on Nov. 27. Tanzanian Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Membe reminded delegates that benefits from globalization are distributed unfairly. “Many countries,” he said, “lack the basic economic, technological and institutional capacities ... and have limited bargaining power to fully participate in global markets.”

The Helsinki process is focused now on implementation of previous proposals. Its agenda calls for multinational consultations on unsolved social problems afflicting peoples of the global South. In particular, Membe underlined the need to provide for human needs in concert with market expansion. He called for rich countries to invest in educational resources for working people.



Syria: Iraqis forced to leave

Referring to an expiring visa and “no money, because I’m not allowed to work,” an Iraqi refugee in Syria was explaining his decision to return home.

The U.K. and U.S. media recently attributed the return of 60,000 Iraqi exiles since Oct. 1 to U.S. troop increases in Iraq. The UN Refugee Agency released a report Nov. 22, however, suggesting that Iraqi returnees are motivated more by denial of visa extensions and lack of money (70 percent of those surveyed) than by perceptions of improved security in Iraq (14 percent).

The IRIN news agency report points out that rampant inflation has aggravated pressures on 1.5 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, who are generally denied permission to work. The Iraqi government is sending Syria $15 million for refugee support, in addition to $8 million heading to Jordan to assist some 500,000 Iraqis there.



Burma: Repression continues

From exile in Thailand, the Women’s League of Burma launched a two-week campaign Nov. 25 calling upon the ruling junta in Myanmar to release 131 women activists arrested during recent pro-democracy demonstrations.

The Irrawaddy news magazine charges that arrests of women activists are continuing, also that the whereabouts of 19 recent demonstrators are unknown. Some presumably remain in hiding. Burmese soldiers and police have reportedly raped, killed or enslaved over 100 women, and complicit neighbors persist in monitoring, even harassing, female friends and family members of targeted activists.

More than 25 women demonstrated in downtown Rangoon Nov. 25 to mark the International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women. Three days later, Burmese rulers ordered the closing of the prominent Maggin Monastery, headed by former political prisoner U Indaka. The religious center provides treatment and hospice care for victims of HIV/AIDS infection.



Hungary: Communists get suspended jail sentences

Pending appeal, seven leaders of the Hungarian Communist Workers Party including party president Gyula Thurmer face two years in prison, their sentences to be suspended on good behavior. A court in Szekesfehervar, reconvening after a six-week recess, on Nov. 6 took three hours to rule that the Communists, having defamed the Hungarian legal system, were guilty of public libel.

The Communist leaders had spoken out against a previous court decision reinstating a Communist Party official who was expelled for undermining the party’s approach to the majority Socialist Party. The court rejected the Communists’ claims that judicial intrusion in its internal affairs was politically motivated and that constitutional rights overseen by the European Union were violated.

In an interview appearing at Scottishcommunists.org.uk, Thurmer coupled his party’s persecution with other recent instances of repression, such as pressures on Czech communists for opposing U.S. missile bases, the banning of the Czech party’s youth league, and restrictions on wearing Communist insignia.



Ecuador: Constituent Assembly opens

Ecuador’s Constituent Assembly opened Nov. 29 in the coastal city of Montecristi. Its mandate is bolstered by the 70 percent election victory achieved by President Rafael Correa’s Alianza PAIS party on Sept. 30 that gave him control of 80 of the 130 available assembly seats.

The assembly’s first action was to recess the nation’s Congress, a stronghold of right-wing intransigence and corruption, at least until the nation votes next year on a new constitution.

At a press conference, Correa, elected last January, indicated that the assembly “can decide whether to send me home or keep me in power.” Quoted by Le Monde Diplomatique, he asserted, “We have undertaken a citizen’s revolution that has to bring us radical, deep, and rapid changes.” The need, he stated, was “to overcome the crisis of this nation — rich in natural resources, but with most of the people in poverty.”

atwhit @megalink.net