India: Activists protest toxic waste ship

The decommissioned French aircraft carrier “Clemenceau,” which saw duty during the 1991 Gulf War, is on its way to the Alang scrap yard in Gujarat, India, where workers are to dismantle the 24,200-ton ship. The ship’s lining, however, is contaminated with about 500 tons of asbestos, a known carcinogen and toxic waste.

Greenpeace India Toxics campaigner Ramapati Kumar said of the French government, “Instead of investing in safe removal and disposal of the asbestos on the Clemenceau, they are trying to dupe the Indian government and dump their toxic wastes onto the poorest of the poor of the world. This is absolutely reprehensible.”

Environmental activists in India have demanded the ship be thoroughly decontaminated before it is allowed to enter India. To do otherwise, they insist, is a violation of the Basel Convention, an international treaty prohibiting trade and movement of hazardous waste materials. The use and manufacture of asbestos is banned in many European countries, including France.

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: New charges of U.S. torture

Jan. 11 marked the fourth anniversary of the first transfers of detainees from Afghanistan to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. To highlight the occasion, Amnesty International released a report containing new allegations of torture and cruel treatment of inmates at the facility, which serves as a detention center for 500 prisoners. Only nine detainees have been charged with any crime.

“The U.S. government would like to turn Guantanamo into a permanent prison camp with no legal recourse for detainees and to create a permanent legal black hole in which hundreds of individuals are held without being charged,” Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Associated Press.

Jumana Musa, a legal observer for AI, commented, “The U.S. continues to try and assert that Guantanamo is a place that exists sort of beyond the law, that no rules apply.”

Amnesty has called for an independent investigation. Meanwhile, some detainees are participating in a hunger strike to protest their detention and harsh living conditions.

Chile: Workers at copper mine on strike

Copper prices rose to a record high in London and New York last week while 28,000 Chilean workers at Codelco, the state-owned copper mine, stepped up their protests in a nationwide walkout.

The non-unionized workers perform maintenance, food service and cleanup work. They are not involved in ore extraction. Their demands include a $960 bonus to reflect the high price of copper and employment terms comparable to those of the unionized miners.

The strikers tried to prevent miners from entering El Teniente, the largest underground copper mine in the world, located in the south of Chile, and blocked the road to Ancina Mine in central Chile. There have been clashes with the police and several arrests, according to Prensa Latina. Codelco is the world’s biggest copper producer, and copper prices have climbed more than 50 percent over the past year, said Bloomberg News.

Bolivia: Miners and farmers lead the way

When Evo Morales makes his processional walk through the streets of La Paz following his inauguration on Jan. 22, he will be flanked in the front lines by miners and farmers in traditional dress. Prensa Latina reported the representative of the Movement towards Socialism (MAS) who is coordinating the procession stated, “We want to express that those who took Morales to the presidency will support, defend and protect his government.” Morales will walk through the city streets to Plaza de los Heroes, a place where traditionally people hold demonstrations and the spot where he began his election campaign.

Global report: Africa bears brunt of conflicts

In a report released last week, Doctors without Borders listed the 10 most under-reported humanitarian crises of 2005. These stories were almost invisible in the U.S. media. Five of the 10 crises were in African countries: Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, southern Sudan, Somalia and northern Uganda.

Also listed were Colombia, Haiti, Chechnya, Northeast India and the worldwide AIDS crisis, which hits the poor hardest, the report said. The root of every country-based humanitarian crisis was violent conflict. The consequences: extreme poverty, illness, malnutrition, displacement of hundreds of thousands and complete disruption of normal, everyday life. The most vulnerable are young girls, women and children.

World Notes are compiled by Pamella Saffer (