Mexico: Mayan people losing out

Mexico’s low intensity warfare against Zapatista-led Mayan communities in Chiapas has aggravated the suffering of indigenous people there.

According to a study released in June by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), 55 percent of them are malnourished — in the case of children, 64 percent — and rates for tuberculosis, non-immunization, illiteracy, and women dying during childbirth are among the highest in the world.

PHR and two local groups surveyed 17,931 individuals in 2,997 households in 46 communities over a six-year span.

PHR attributes the fall-off in people’s health to alienation on the part of indigenous people from government-based service providers and growing divisions among indigenous communities fostered by the occupying Mexican army.

Philippines: Labor activists kidnapped, killed

On Aug. 1, in the Philippine state of Pampanga, men in civilian clothes, said to be soldiers with the Army’s 69th Infantry Battalion, kidnapped union leader Benigno Mateo outside the plant where he worked in San Fernando.

On the web site of the National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno, Elmer Labog, the union’s secretary-general, reported that 60 trade unionists have been abducted since 2001. Others have been killed.

Activists say the disappearances are part of a government and military campaign to repress unions and leftist groups.

Labog recently testified before a Senate committee urging that the government make good on the right of contractual and temporary workers to join unions.

Only 10 percent of the 35 million Philippine workers belong to unions, and Labog says rampant intimidation prevents most workers from exercising their constitutional right to organize unions.

Lebanon: Israeli attacks ruin environment

Environmentalists Against War report that Israeli air strikes two weeks ago destroyed five oil holding tanks at a power plant near Beirut, plus barriers intended to keep loose oil from running into the Mediterranean. Their web site reported Aug. 2 that an estimated 110,000 barrels of oil have washed up on beaches and rocks along 55 miles of Lebanese coastline. Sea-borne oil is expected to reach Syria, Cyprus, Turkey and eventually Greece.

Continuing Israeli air bombardments have put clean-up efforts on hold. UN environmental specialist Achim Steiner told reporters, “The longer the spill is left untreated, the harder it will be to clean up.”

Lebanon, much praised for efforts to protect the environment, now faces long-term damage to its fishery and tourist industries. According to environment minister Yaacoub Sarraf, “Our whole marine ecosystem facing the Lebanese shoreline is [probably] dead. … What is at stake today is all marine life in the eastern Mediterranean.”

Bolivia: Morales remains popular

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales gained a 75 percent approval rating in an opinion poll reported July 30 in the La Paz weekly La Epocha. Carried out in five cities without data from rural areas where Morales’ support is high, the survey may have underestimated his support, Prensa Latina said.

In the poll, 61 percent of those surveyed think that Bolivia’s future is bright, and 65 percent give Morales high marks for anti-corruption measures. Commentators said agrarian reform was seen as crucial to Morales’ appeal. Another poll, reported May 30 by Angus Reid Global Scan, gave the president an 81 percent approval rating, up 13 points from April.

Analyst John Crabtree, at, attributes Morales high popularity steps taken May 1 to nationalize oil and natural gas resources, to fund social services, to cut the salaries of high government officials and to redistribute land to small farmers.

Nigeria: Oil barons edgy as Delta turmoil grows

The International Crisis Group issued a statement Aug. 3 to promote its new report “The Swamps of Insurgency: Nigeria’s Delta Unrest.” Appearing on, the report offers advice to the Nigerian government, oil-consuming nations and oil companies aimed at countering “the risk of violent meltdown in the Niger Delta.”

According to the report, poverty, corruption, and crime have for 25 years fueled an increasingly “militant threat to the stability of the region and to the country’s reliability as a major oil producer.” Nigeria has become Africa’s largest oil supplier and is tenth in crude oil production worldwide.

The report calls for governmental reforms, international aid and cooperation between oil companies and community-based organizations. It views with alarm the emergence recently of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. The insurgent group is demanding troop withdrawals, release of imprisoned leaders and the sharing of oil revenues with Delta populations.

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney (