WORLDNOTES - Italy, Philippines, Global, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Cuba

Italy: Gaddafi visit, a first

During his first visit to Italy, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi lauded Italy’s acknowledgment of crimes during colonial times. Italy occupied Libya from 1911 until World War II. Last year Italy, which has extensive Libyan commercial ties, agreed to a $5 billion compensation package.

Gaddafi also spoke with thousands of compensation-seeking Italians expelled from Libya as punishment for colonization, and with Jews expelled in retaliation for Israeli aggression against Palestine in 1967. Accompanying the Libyan leader was the son of liberation hero Omar al-Mukhtar, executed by Italy in 1931.

Libya provides one fourth of Italy’s oil, according to Al Jazeera. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi invited Gaddafi to attend the Group of Eight summit next month in Italy.





Philippines: Land rights leader murdered

Human rights and land reform advocates protested the murder last week in Bukidnon province of Renato Penas, a farmer who led in the struggle against concentrated land ownership. Under pressure from peasant organizations, the Congress had just finalized a five-year extension of the Agrarian Reform Law.

Penas carried out a 28-day hunger strike in 1997, Pakisama.org reported. Twice he led marchers to the presidential palace, on routes of 90 miles last year and 1,060 miles in 2007, in successful campaigns to restore land to peasants.

Penas served as vice president of the National Federation of Peasant Organizations (PAKISAMA), the group sponsoring the marches and campaigns.

Almost 1,000 political killings have occurred since 2001, according to the Karapatan human rights group.





Global: Union activists vulnerable, labor federation says

The annual survey of Trade Union Rights Violations issued June 10 by the International Confederation of Trade Unions demonstrates abuse of workers worldwide. The toll of unionists killed while defending labor rights was 76, down from 91 last year.

Union activism remains dangerous in Colombia where 49 unionists were murdered, an increase of 10. Nine deaths occurred in second-place Guatemala followed by the Philippines and Venezuela with four killings each.

The survey recorded 7,500 workers in 68 countries fired last year for trade union activity, which the ITUC report calls an underestimation of the total. That number included 2,000 in Turkey and 600 in Indonesia.

The survey highlighted exploitation of migrant and contract workers and those laboring in export processing zones.





Lebanon: Vote keeps status quo

Elections June 7 did little to change the country’s balance of power, Inter Press Service said. The U.S. and Saudi-backed alliance headed by Saad Hariri, son of a slain prime minister, retained its parliamentary majority while forces led by Hezbollah, supported by Syria and Iran, fell short of predictions.

President Obama’s speech in Cairo the week before may have contributed to an atmosphere of conciliation, observers said. Yet the defeated coalition actually won the popular vote. Because of that and also rules assuring that a minority of one-third plus one can block parliamentary decision making, Hariri, the likely prime minister, will find difficulties meeting Hezbollah demands for compromise.

Nicaragua: Aid won’t be missed

Jacinto Suárez, Sandinista Party international relations secretary, downplayed the impact of a $64 million cut in U.S. aid announced June 4. He rejected notions of Nicaraguan dependency on funds provided by the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation that over five years had supplied $111 million for development projects. Suárez characterized U.S. assistance as constituting “mechanisms of pressure, coercion, intervention, interference, or whatever one calls it … against Nicaragua’s national sovereignty.”

TeleSur reported that projects supported through U.S. aid will be continued through the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, a regional alliance organized by Venezuela and Cuba in 2004. Washington found a pretext for ending U.S. assistance in allegations from Sandinista opponents of voting irregularities in municipal elections last November.





Cuba: Oil exported, with Venezuelan help

Reporting recently on 2008 export revenues, the Foreign Trade Ministry indicated that oil exports had moved into second place, replacing pharmaceuticals. Nickel accounted for 39 percent of the $4 billion export total; oil, 22 percent; pharmaceuticals, 9 percent; sugar and tobacco products, 6 percent each.

Also in 2008, oil imports from Venezuela exceeded the previous year’s total, rising from 87,000 to 115,000 barrels per day, including 45,000 bpd and 98,000 bpd respectively as crude oil.

Observers say additional crude from Venezuela was processed at a refinery in Cienfuegos inaugurated in 2007 and operated as a bi-national joint venture. Reuters explained that sales throughout the Caribbean of oil refined there, on favorable terms, have served to expand oil exports.

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