Nicaragua: Ortega hits the ground running

Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega’s first official act after his second presidential inauguration on Jan. 10 — after a 17-year hiatus — was to announce Nicaragua’s membership, with Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela, in the “Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas” (ALBA). ALBA is a multifaceted trade and economic pact that emphasizes regional cooperation for mutual benefit. Its members reject U.S.-dominated “free trade” schemes. reported that Venezuelan will provide Nicaragua with 10 million barrels of oil annually and will build an oil refinery and 32 electrical generating plants. Venezuela has also cancelled $31.8 million of Nicaragua’s debt.

On Jan. 15, Ortega’s Education Ministry ended public school privatization, abolished school fees and launched a literacy campaign. The government announced that private health care services will be eliminated from public hospitals, and that payments for medicines, surgery and tests at public hospitals have been abolished.

Guinea: Unions take on nation’s president

Unions headed by the National Confederation of Guinean Workers (CNTG) have carried out strikes throughout the west African nation aimed at removing President Lansana Conte, who has been criticized for economic mismanagement, especially in the mining sector. Guinea is home to about half of the world’s reserves of bauxite, a key material in producing aluminum.

Conte took power in a 1984 coup and since 1993 has been re-elected in voting said to have been fraudulent. Despite the president’s offers to reduce fuel prices and retrieve mining revenues lost to foreign companies, he disappointed union representatives who met with him on Jan. 17, according to

Rabiatou Serah Diallo, the CNTG’s head, declared, “The solution to the strike is in the hands of President Conte and the institutions of the republic. … We will continue the fight.” The labor federation has called for the appointment of a transitional government.

Up to 12 people have been killed and scores wounded in uncharacteristically violent demonstrations in Conakry, the nation’s capital.

Vietnam: Swedish unionists visit for talks

A delegation of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (STUC) arrived in Vietnam on Jan. 11 for bilateral meetings with their host, the Vietnam’s General Confederation of Labor.

The Swedish unionists have been asked by their Vietnamese counterparts to assist in the training of union officials and in devising curricula for Vietnam’s trade union schools. They were also asked to provide help in organizing seminars on the World Trade Organization, which Vietnam joined last year.

The delegation leader, STUC Vice President Leif Hakansson, said, “We are mulling measures to further boost cooperation between the two nations in labor particularly, and in economic and trade activities in the future.”

In 1969 Sweden became the first western nation to establish diplomatic relations with Vietnam, according to the report on

Jordan: Anti-U.S. sentiments growing

According to recent Zogby polling, 80 percent of the respondents from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, relatively peaceful countries cooperating with the U.S. government, hold unfavorable opinions of the United States.

In 2002, Zogby found that 34 percent of Jordanians viewed the U.S. favorably. Four years later the number had fallen to 5 percent, the lowest figure among five Arab nations, the others being Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The negative views in Jordan, according to, stem from factors such as the suffering of fellow Sunnis in Iraq; the arrival of 700,000 Iraqi refugees, many of whom work for cheap wages; the U.S. failure to bring about Israeli-Palestinian peace; the marginalization of the Sunni group Hamas despite its electoral victory in 2006; and lastly, Bush support for Israel’s 2006 military assault that weakened Lebanon’s Sunni prime minister.

Nepal: Maoist rebels enter Parliament

Entering Nepal’s Parliament on Jan. 16, former Maoist rebels controlled enough seats to become the second-largest party in the transitional government. In November, the Maoists joined with seven political parties to end 10 years of civil war, a war that claimed the lives of 14,000 people and displaced almost 200,000 more.

Citing UN sources, a report at Inter Press Service describes Nepal’s dire humanitarian circumstances, where extreme poverty and high rates of mortality and malnutrition have long prevailed.

The Parliament will approve a temporary constitution to guide the government until elections to a constituent assembly take place in May.

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