Bolivia: Regional leaders form Bank of the South

The “Solidarity Bank of the People of the South” was launched June 27-28 at the Summit of the Peoples in Paraguay and concurrently in Venezuela at the Summit of Presidents of the Mercosur (South American trade pact) nations.

Rodrigo Cabezas, Bolivia’s finance minister, was quoted by the Adital news service as saying that 200 organizations have signed a letter to the presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador and Venezuela urging that the bank become a means for “setting up a stabilization fund … and a common regional currency.” The letter called for transparency and accountability in the bank’s operations, in contrast with the practices of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

With a large capital reserve fund, the bank will lessen the hazard of capital flight, provide long-term investments and support projects serving people’s needs and rights. Brazilian ambivalence apparently delayed final agreements. The six signatory countries presently have investments totaling $164 billion in U.S. and European banks.

Algeria: U.S. Africa Command remains homeless

Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelsi met June 10 with a touring U.S. Defense Department team intent on finding an African home for the Pentagon’s Africa Command. President Bush announced his initiative to establish the command in February.

Algeria joined Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Djibouti, Ethiopia and the African Union in rejecting the proposal to host the command, despite U.S. offers to provide humanitarian aid and train local security. Regional spokespersons cited concerns about national sovereignty and increased risk of terrorist attacks. They told group leader Ryan Henry that Africans would utilize the African Union to bolster national security.

“We’ve got a big image problem down there,” admitted a State Department spokesperson quoted by China’s People’s Daily.

In Algiers, Henry touted a new Bush proposal for “a distributed command” with “different nodes around the continent,” noting that Al-Qaeda does it that way.

The Washington Post recently reported on Defense Department analyses placing Africa’s natural gas and oil reserves at the center of its strategy on the continent.

Afghanistan: Narcotics grow under U.S- British occupation

The UN Office on Drugs and Crimes reported recently that Afghan opium production rose 50 percent in 2006. UNODC official Christina Oguz told reporters June 25 that 90 percent of the raw opium produced in Afghanistan is now converted directly into morphine and heroin inside the country through “hundreds of small laboratories that have cropped up recently.”

The recent confiscation of large amounts of anhydrous acetic acid, a chemical essential to the process, confirms the development.

Desperately poor peasants lack “concrete alternatives” to poppy growing, Oguz said. Moreover, the Afghan government itself is heavily involved. Oguz told AFP, the French news service, that state agencies own 60 percent of the land that is producing poppies, and in Helmand province, the local government mediates wage disputes between landowners and poppy field laborers.

Meanwhile, a new report says more than 200 Afghan civilians were killed by U.S. and British air strikes and other military operations in June. Afghanistan has been under U.S. and British occupation since 2001.

Portugal: Small nation pioneers sustainable energy production

Portugal has emerged as the European Union leader in renewable source energy production.

In June, Antonio Sa da Costa, president of a consortium of Portuguese renewable energy companies, described new power-generating complexes that will enable Portugal to produce 60 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The world’s largest solar energy station, consisting of 350,000 photovoltaic solar panels, will be operating by December. By May 2008, its operations will have reduced the country’s carbon dioxide emissions by 87,500 tons.

Another solar generating plant that opened in April with 532,000 solar panels is currently the world’s largest such facility. By the end of 2007, 1,591 wind turbines will have generated over 3 million megawatts of electricity. Along Portugal’s north coast the world’s first plant utilizing ocean waves has brought 2.25 million watts ashore since October 2006.

Inter Press Service attributes these breakthrough accomplishments to Socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates’ commitment to renewable energy.

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit