Leaders highlight poverty, inequality

Latin American leaders participating in the 2nd Summit of the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean in Madrid last week urged increased attention to globalization’s consequences in the region, including growing poverty and inequality.

Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said that while the problem of terrorism needs to be taken seriously, it should not obscure the fight against poverty and social and cultural exclusion.

Carlos Lage, Vice President of Cuba’s Council of State, stressed that foreign debt, the conditions placed on foreign loans, migration and scant financial aid for development from the major industrialized countries continue as major problems in the region. Cuba calls for equal trade conditions for all countries.

“We go from summit to summit and our people go from abyss to abyss,” said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, adding that “changing this situation is one of the most imperative tasks for Latin Americans and for others who want to help the forgotten ones.”

The summit strongly criticized the unilateral trade policiesof the U.S., and denounced all unilateral and extraterritorial measures that are contrary to international law and the rules of free trade.

Nepal emergency extended over strong opposition

On recommendation of Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, King Gyanendra this week issued an executive order extending the national state of emergency for another three months. The action was taken though a majority of the ruling Congress Party’s central committee voted last week that the extension is not needed, and the main parliamentary opposition, the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), had announced that it would vote against the measure.

The state of emergency was declared last November as the government combatted a murderous Maoist insurgency. Under its terms all rights except that of habeas corpus are suspended.

Germans don’t like euro

In a recent survey conducted in Germany, 54 percent of respondents would be very happy to abandon the euro and get the Deutschmark back. They now call the new currency the “teuro,” a combination of the German word “teuer” (expensive) and “euro.”

Since the new currency was introduced, Europeans generally have been complaining that prices have gone up for everything. Economists counter that the cost of food and some other goods has risen but that more expensive items cost the same. Before the euro was introduced, opponents’ warnings about rising prices were ignored.

Cuban, South African CPs sign agreement

Following a bilateral meeting, Dr. Rodolfo Puente Ferro, head of the African Section of the Communist Party of Cuba, and Dr. Blade Nzimande, General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, on Monday signed an agreement committing the two parties to ongoing cooperation, solidarity and mutual support.

The meeting paid special tribute to the work of Cuban doctors in South Africa, where in recent years they have seen more than two million patients, performed tens of thousands of medical operations and saved countless lives.

The gathering also emphasized the need to work together to defeat the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba, condemned the Bush administration’s unfounded allegations about Cuban biological warfare activity, and called for solidarity with the five Cubans falsely imprisoned in the U.S. on allegations of espionage.

Panama wants U.S. to clear explosives

The Panamanian government is pressing Washington to clear unexploded munitions left behind on three former U.S. firing ranges, in formerly isolated areas that now are experiencing large-scale population growth. Despite a partial U.S. cleanup, the 44,000 acre area is estimated to hold a remaining 100,000 “duds” left behind on the ranges after U.S. live-fire training and testing of weapons ranging from land mines to cluster bombs.

Though U.S. officials say it’s impossible to clear all explosives from the steep hills and thick jungle of the area, Panamanian officials say that, as the demand for land grows, they cannot keep people out, and Panama lacks the technology and funds to finish clearing the area.

Panama maintains that the 1977 Panama Canal Treaty commits the U.S. to turn over areas it earlier held, free of every hazard to human life, health and safety. Observers point out that Panama’s concerns are echoed around the world, by other nations, including the Philippines, where the U.S. has maintained military installations.