Burma: Epidemics linked to junta

A recent report issued by medical experts at The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health cites the military junta in Burma as the primary agent in the spread of disease in this Southeast Asian country.

Secrecy, fear, poverty, drug abuse and prostitution contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and avian flu, the report says. All of these factors are thriving in Burma.

According to the World Health Organization, one in every 29 Burmese has HIV, an explosive level of infection.

The Democratic Voice of Burma reported Chris Beyrer, one of the John Hopkins researchers, as saying, “the lack of freedom, the lack of scientific information, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly — these very fundamental rights that have been denied the Burmese people have made HIV spread more likely and more grave.”

Angola: Rebuilding postwar countryside

When the brutal 27-year-long civil war in this southern Africa country ended in 2002, the country embarked on a desperately needed reconstruction program.

Angola is one of the largest oil-producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, second only to Nigeria. Offshore oil platforms pump 1.4 million barrels a day, and volume is expected to increase to 2 million barrels in the next six months.

While the lucrative oil industry has helped fill the national coffers and, according to the UN new agency IRIN, made Angola one of the world’s fastest growing economies in the world, the country’s rural provinces — long neglected throughout years of war and colonialism — remain isolated. Once home to a thriving agricultural economy, these provinces are now without roads, schools, markets, jobs and health clinics.

A senior UN official stressed building a viable infrastructure in the provinces is essential for progress. China is involved in building a $240 million highway to connect Luanda, the capital, to towns in the north.

Palestine: A people under siege

At the same time Palestinians are confronted with a virtual economic siege, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East issued a protest to the Israeli government for restricting movement of UNRWA staff from the West Bank to Jerusalem last week. UNRWA’s work is centered on humanitarian relief and emergency aid, both of which have become even more critical as the Palestinian economy remains in an economic stranglehold imposed by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union.

The problem, reported Reuters, is not so much raising aid money as moving it through banks to the Palestinian Authority. Since the U.S. barred financial dealings with the Palestinian Authority last month, banks are wary of legal complications from transferring funds to the PA, even if the banks are headquartered outside the U.S.

Vietnam: Communist Party congress

Red banners and the Vietnamese flag were flown along the major streets in Hanoi last month to welcome 1,200 delegates to the 10th national congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

While the congress noted Vietnam’s many impressive achievements over the past 20 years, it said it was necessary to accelerate the country’s economic development.

Citing lagging development in ethnic minority areas, the newspaper Nhan Dan said delegates affirmed that “great national solidarity would contribute to building and protecting the country, fulfilling the tasks of Vietnam’s revolution and bringing the nation out of a state of underdevelopment.”

The congress said the party’s aim is “to build an independent, democratic, rich and strong Vietnam with an equitable and civilized society without exploitation, successfully realizing socialism and communism as a final goal.”

The closing day was celebrated at Friendship Culture Palace, where 1,000 singers, dancers and children performed, followed by a parade with traditional lion dances.

Mexico: Activists under attack

The town of San Salvador Atenco near Mexico City was besieged last week by hundreds of Federal Preventative Police who ransacked homes and attacked residents in a door-to-door rampage.

The activist “autonomous” community is the home base of Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra, the People’s Front in Defense of the Land, which after years of struggle, successfully defeated a $2 billion airport project slated for construction on their communally owned land.

According to the Mexico Solidarity Network, the police attack started when flower sellers from Atenco tried to sell their wares in a nearby community, the site of a planned Wal-Mart megamall.

MSN called for a U.S. protest campaign directed at Mexican consulates, demanding an end to state aggression against the people of Atenco.

World Notes are compiled by Pamella Saffer (psaffer@pww.org).