Nigeria: Focus on South-South ties

A first-ever summit of 53 African and 12 South American countries opened Nov. 29 in Abuja, Nigeria. Organized by the African Union, the meeting had South-South cooperation as its main theme. It explored “areas of mutual cooperation,” developments in international politics and opportunities for expanded trade.

The conferees discussed technology exchanges and the prospect of an Africa-South America bank and, according to, called for reform of the United Nations. The South American Community of Nations, an amalgam of the Mercosur trade network and the Andean Community of Nations, initiated the conference, modeled on November’s China-Africa Summit in Beijing and a 2005 South America-Arab League Summit in Brasilia.

Leaders of African nations met on the summit margins under African Union auspices to discuss the Darfur conflict. Among South American leaders attending were Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Bolivia’s Evo Morales.

Colombia: Telesur reporter jailed

A wave of condemnation from independent journalists is sweeping Latin America following the Nov. 19 jailing of Colombian Fredy Muñoz in Bogota. Police authorities, invoking charges of “rebellion” and terrorism, cite a claim from a jailed prisoner possibly seeking favors that the Telesur journalist took part in a 2002 car bombing. Muñoz has vigorously denied the charges.

Since 1987, 121 Colombian journalists have been murdered, 18 since 2002, when President Alvaro Uribe assumed power. La Jornada criticized the world’s media for silence on an attack on press freedom. A Telesur spokesperson accused the Uribe government of criminalizing the multinational news service initiated by Venezuela in 2005, and of trying to sow confusion prior to Venezuela’s presidential election.

A petition for Muñoz’s freedom is circulating on the Internet.

Australia: Labor demands ouster of right-wing gov’t

Almost 300,000 people rallied throughout Australia Nov. 30 as the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) unleashed a campaign against legislation recently introduced by the conservative John Howard government.

Opening a gathering of 60,000 people at the Melbourne Cricket Club, ACTU President Sharan Burrow declared that now “you can be sacked without rhyme or reason and you have no right to defend yourself.” Others elaborated on provisions allowing bosses to cut pay and benefits after businesses are sold, dismiss workers during strikes, and cap entitlements. LabourStart said ACTU Secretary Greg Combet called for a return to power of Australia’s Labor Party. The need, he said, “is to win the support of Australian people by telling them the facts.” Rocker Jimmy Barnes closed the Melbourne rally with his famous song, “Working Class Man.”

France: European Roma strategize

Meeting for three days at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, representatives of Roma organizations from 40 countries summarized conditions of life for 47 million of their people. The European Roma and Traveler Forum (ERTF), formed a year ago to forge Roma unity and gain political recognition, organized the gathering.

According to L’Humanité (also see, Roma people throughout Europe, often called Gypsies, regularly experience racist-inspired abuse and persecution. They are excluded from health care, discriminated against in schools and denied employment. Crossing borders is also problematic.

In 2003 hundreds of women were unknowingly sterilized in Slovakia maternity hospitals. In October, threats forced 30 Roma from a Slovenian village into a refugee camp. After wartime persecution in Kosovo, their population fell from 200,000 to 35,000.

Conditions for the Roma improved slightly as eastern European nations were applying for admission to the European Union. The ERTF strategy apparently is to establish ties with transnational European organizations.

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