Brazil: Landless workers weigh in on biofuels

The Fifth Congress of Brazil’s Rural Workers Without Land, the MST, ended June 14 with a march through Brasilia protesting transnational land grabs and mining privatization.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s push for using sugarcane ethanol for fuel occupied many of the sessions over five days. Speakers warned against “big capitalism” taking over biofuel production, saying the interests of small farmers need to be taken into account.

The18,000 delegates passed a resolution condemning new legislation that promotes large-scale eucalyptus monoculture, saying it would remove food-producing land from cultivation.

In a message, Cuban President Fidel Castro praised the MST as “combative,” well-organized and “profound in its thinking.” He greeted a new MST school — founded in cooperation with Via Campesina, a worldwide social movement — for training environmental agronomists, and pointed out that 80 MST students are studying at Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine.

Ghana: African leader tells rich nations to keep promises

Ghanaian President John Kufuor called June 12 for an independent body to ensure that G-8 industrialized nations make good on promises to Africa. As chairperson of the African Union, he noted previous G-8 failings, notably the delayed delivery of $50 billion in aid pledged in 2005. A World Bank spokesperson quoted by Inter Press Service substantiated the complaint.

Kufuor also expressed disappointment at the relative lack of assistance for energy, water, scientific and education projects from the recent G-8 summit in Germany.

UN: Iraqi, Palestinian children abandoned, forced to work

UN reports marking the World Day against Child Labor, June 12, outline the plight of abandoned or working children in Palestine and Iraq. Monica Awad of UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, refers to a “lost generation” of Palestinian children.

Thousands of Palestinian children serve as their family’s sole source of income, especially for West Bank residents cut off from former jobs in Israel because of Israeli restrictions and barrier walls. The Palestinian poverty rate exceeds 70 percent. Children work as vendors, porters or quarry laborers. Many end up as scavengers.

In Iraq, over 11 percent of children 14 years old or younger are in the workforce, according to UNICEF. The number of orphans and street children has mushroomed since the U.S. invasion, and many are prey to gangs and predators.

Nepal: Gov’t prepares elections, cuts king’s powers

Nepal’s interim Parliament amended the nation’s temporary constitution June 13 to allow for the removal of the country’s king from power by a two-thirds majority.

Dev Gurung, minister of local development and a leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), told the French news agency AFP that Parliament wants to prevent King Gyanendra from canceling elections for a constituent assembly later this year.

The Maoists ended their guerrilla insurgency in November 2006 and agreed to demobilize 30,000 combatants. They now claim 83 parliamentary representatives and five cabinet ministers in a government set up in April.

President Jimmy Carter, during a visit on June 13, described incumbent Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala of the Nepali Congress Party as the “focal point around which the peace and future democracy of this country has been built,” according to China People’s Daily.

CPN-M chairperson Prachanda, who uses only one name, assured Carter of his party’s commitment to multiparty democracy and proposed that his party be removed from the U.S. list of “terrorist” organizations.

Britain: Troops say, ‘Out of Iraq!’

Journalist John Pilger reported June 8 that British troops in Iraq are rebelling against the U.S.-led war there. On, he cites a high British officer serving in Iraq who condemned the invasion as “illegal, immoral, unwinnable … [which is] the overwhelming feeling of many of my peers.”

British military head Gen. Richard Dannatt said that the British presence in Iraq “exacerbates the security problem.” Pilger noted the “willingness of usually obedient British soldiers to speak their minds.”

Pilger also condemned journalists’ compliance with “embedded coverage” and their unquestioning acceptance of the Bush administration’s “last ditch assertions” that al-Qaeda forces are behind recurring waves of attacks. Experienced observers say that foreign combatants are a “couple of percent and they’re sort of leaderless,” he said. Overall, Pilger said, British soldiers increasingly oppose “squandering soldiers’ lives … to delay the inevitable Anglo-U.S. rout until after the next U.S. election.”

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