Cuba continues to change, independence for Western Sahara – and more

Palestine: World leaders protest resumed West Bank housing construction

A month ago Israel lifted its 10 month moratorium on new housing starts in the Palestinian West Bank. Since then, according to an October 22 Associated Press report, construction has begun on almost 550 homes for Israeli settlers. The rate is four times that of recent years.  UN Peace Process coordinator Robert Serry observed, “This figure is alarming and is another indicator that Israel is not serious about the peace process.”  Visiting East Jerusalem with a high level international delegation, former U.S. President Jimmie Carter reacted similarly. Referring to “the suffering here under the occupation and the privations of the people of Gaza,” he condemned “the improper policies of Israel,” and called for Hamas’ inclusion in the peace process.

Western Sahara: Independence agitation mounts as negotiations resume

Protesting Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara, abandoned by Spain in 1975, over 10,000 Sahrawis have left smaller cities in the region and are encamped outside Smara, Dakhla, El Aaiun, and Bujador cities. Afrol News reported that as of October 21 Moroccan security forces were engaging in violence and preventing supplies from reaching the camps.  Meanwhile, in preparation for repeat UN sponsored negotiations on the status of Western Sahara in November, UN envoy Christopher Ross is conferring with leaders of Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, and the Western Sahara independence movement known as the Polisario Front. Some 150,000 Sahrawis live in refugee camps in Algeria. Morocco refuses to implement a UN independence referendum which has been mandated since 1991.  

Germany: Prejudice takes center stage

The Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s release October 13 of polling data on German attitudes towards Islam coincides with a flood of political expressions of intolerance for Muslim Germans. Der Spiegel online reported that 58 percent of respondents believe that “religious practice for Muslims in Germany should be seriously limited.” In addition, 55 percent don’t like Muslims, 25 percent hold xenophobic attitudes, and 10 percent want a “Führer.” President Christian Wulff’s speech October 3 espousing tolerance prompted calls for schools to ban all non-German speech and place blame on Turkish students for falling academic standards. Chancellor Angela Merkel followed suit when on October 16 she told conservative youth activists that multiculturalism had failed. “We feel tied to Christian values,” she said.

India: Workers take on giant electronics manufacturer

Since Oct 9, security officials in Tamil Nadu state have arrested and jailed 500 striking Foxconn Corporation workers, most of them being released on bail. Factory managers are refusing to negotiate with sit-in strikers demanding recognition for their union and a monthly wage increase from $106 to $221.  The Taiwan – owned entity, employer worldwide of 925,000 workers, took in $2.3 billion in net income last year, a 37 percent one year increase. Foxconn makes electronic equipment for corporations that include Apple, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard. Philippines Online Chronicles reports that of 7,500 striking workers, 6,400 are listed as temporary or contract workers. Foxconn factories in China gained notoriety earlier this year from the suicide deaths of 13 workers.

Cuba: New tax laws are announced

The government on October 22 unveiled a new tax code aimed at easing the transition to self employment, which has surfaced as a priority following the announcement last month that 500,000 workers would be released from state employment. The Reuters report indicates generous deductions will be allowed for business expenses. Authorities will be strengthening enforcement of tax payments, instituting new taxes, and issuing 250,000 self employment licenses to complement last year’s total of 143,000 self-employed. The self – employed will for the first time be allowed to hire workers, and for each one hired they will pay a deductible 25 percent social security tax. The new tax system is described as regulatory in nature to prevent wealth concentrations.

Image: Thousands demonstrate for Western Sahara’s independence in Spain, which, in the 20th century, put that nation under Moroccan control. Wikimedia commons // CC BY-SA 2.0


W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine.