WORLDNOTES December 20, 2008

Morocco: EU aid promotes trade, military power

Parliament recently doubled 2009 defense spending to 16 percent of state expenses, at the same time the EU is increasing financial assistance to 190 million euros.

Under a new “advanced treaty,” Morocco became the top recipient of funds dispensed to African and Middle Eastern countries under the EU’s European Neighborhood Policy. Moroccan exports gain new access to European markets.

The Afrol news service asserts that stepped-up defense funding will enable Morocco “to buy sophisticated weapons in order to create equilibrium in the region with Algeria.”

Morocco has long resented Algerian support for the Polisario independence movement in Western Sahara, a region Moroccan troops have occupied since Spanish colonists were forced to depart in 1975.





Venezuela: Campaign to end term limits

Last week activists of President Hugo Chavez’ United Socialist Party of Venezuela sought signatures supporting a constitutional amendment to eliminate the present two-term limit on presidential tenure. After receiving the signatures, the National Assembly will discuss the amendment on Dec. 18 and again on Jan. 5. If it gains Assembly approval, it will be submitted to a national referendum vote, probably in March.

The Popular Tribune quoted Communist Party General Secretary Oscar Figuera as saying Venezuela’s Communists will gather signatures in a process viewed as useful for promoting “unity and collective discussion.” Figuera called for abolition of term limits for all elective offices. The next presidential election takes place in 2012.





Nepal: Governing party challenges ex-insurgents

The Congress Party has refused to allow 19,000 ex-guerrillas housed in United Nations camps to enter the army, which the French news agency AFP calls a bastion of Nepal’s elite.

Prime Minister Prachanda responded last week by threatening to dissolve his four-month-old Maoist majority government. Along with land reform, melding of the military forces had been crucial to the deal allowing Maoist insurgents to end their decade-long civil war.

In November, landless street protesters organized by the National Land Rights Forum forced a procrastinating government to establish a commission, opposed by big owners, to implement land reform. Pressures also mounted on the government to make good on commitments to restore land to 200,000 people forced off holdings during the insurgency, or provide compensation.





Iran-Iraq: Building ties

Press TV said last week that Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh has called upon “the new [Obama] administration to open a dialogue with Iran to resolve the exceptional problems which are affecting stability in the region.”

The role of economic imperatives in prompting Iranian-Iraqi rapprochement was evident in a Dec. 10 statement by Iranian oil official Ahmad Nasiri, who announced $32 million in spending toward development of programs to drill nine oil wells in north Baghdad. The Xinhua news service cited Iran’s long-term interest in joining multinational exploitation of Iraqi oil reserves, and “other neighboring countries’ oil industries.”





UN: Growing hunger highlighted

The Rome-based World Food Program this month presented a survey of world hunger. “For millions [in] developing countries, eating the minimum amount of food … is a distant dream,” Assistant Director General Hafez Ghanem said in a press release published on rebelion.org.

Undernourished people, 923 million in 2007, now number 963 million, 65 percent of whom live in India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia. Causes include lack of land, credit and jobs as well as high costs for food, seed and fertilizer.

Big farms enabled rich countries to increase grain production this year by 10 percent. Production stagnated elsewhere. Halving the number of hungry by 2015 a Millennium Development Goal will require $30 billion annually.

Cuba: Caribbean leaders hosted

The Third Cuba-Caricom Summit, meeting Dec. 8 in Santiago de Cuba, issued a declaration covering Caribbean integration, mutual developmental assistance, climate change, the financial crisis and drug trafficking. Cuba, not a member of the 15-member trade alliance, held the first summit in 2002, three decades after Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago established diplomatic relations with Havana, defying the U.S. blockade.

President Raul Castro reminded the leaders that Cuba’s international solidarity is founded on revolution. The Cuban News Agency noted that 1,013 Cuban health professionals are working in Caricom nations, performing 17 million medical consultations, 300,000 operations and 123,000 deliveries over 10 years. Former Cuban President Fidel Castro was awarded the “Order of the Caribbean Community.”

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