Bulgaria/Romania: U.S. bases under construction

Stars and Stripes, the U.S. Army weekly, reported last month that two new U.S. military bases are under construction in Bulgaria and Romania at costs respectively of $60 and $50 million. One will house 2,500 troops and the other, 1,600 soldiers. U.S. and host nation troops will share the facilities.

The report cited analyst James Robbins’ view that the new bases are part of a U.S. plan to move U.S. forces out of Germany and closer to the Middle East. The Romanian government has signaled approval of new U.S. missile deployment plans following recent abandonment of proposed missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. Military exercises involving 2,000 U.S. troops are now under way in the region.

Africa: Multinational treaty address climate change

In Kampala, Uganda last week, the African Union adopted what the UN’s IRIN news service called a “ground-breaking treaty” to protect Africans displaced from homes and land. Focusing on prevention, the initiative is remarkable for dealing with “the new concern about migration linked to environmental degradation,” and especially natural disasters related to climate change, says migration expert Etienne Piguet.

According to UN agencies, droughts, hurricanes and floods exacerbated by climate change forced the displacement of 20 million African people in 2008. Violence caused the removal of 4.6 million more. UN spokespersons have pointed out that “existing human rights law” demands protection for displaced persons.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted for Africa a future of intensifying floods and drought.

Israel: Abuse of migrant workers documented

In a detailed report accessible at rainbowwarrior2005.wordpress.com, Kav LaOved (Worker’s Hotline) last week highlighted exploitation of migrant agricultural workers. Through interviews and site visits, the workers’ rights organization demonstrated that 90 percent of the 30,000 workers from Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Palestinian Authority, and especially Thailand were putting in hours far in excess of legal limits.

Pay is low, overtime pay is non-existent, housing is primitive and many enjoy only one day off per month. Employers confiscate passports and pay nothing toward social benefits. Foreign workers are compliant out of fear of losing jobs and defaulting on individual debts of $8,000-$10,000 to agents who arranged their stay in Israel. Farmers are currently campaigning for additional migrant worker permits.

China: Economy on a roll

The nation’s vanguard position among states dealing with economic crisis was fortified with the release of October data demonstrating steady expansion of manufacturing over eight months. Between July and September China’s economy grew at an annual rate of 8.9 percent, while the U.S. economy expanded at an annualized rate of 3.5 percent. Chinese economic growth over the next three months was projected at 9.5 percent.

Chinadaily.com said some 7.57 million jobs had been created over eight months ending Aug. 3, 2009, representing 84 percent of the target for the full year.

A BBC report attributed this year’s expansion to a $586 billion government stimulus program launched in late 2008 focusing on infrastructure spending.

Nicaragua: Students on the march

Thousands of university students took to the streets last week in Managua. They gathered outside the National Assembly to demand a presidential veto of legislation creating an accreditation agency likely, they say, to disregard a constitutionally- required 6 percent budgetary allotment for universities.

Rock throwing forced organizers to suspend the demonstration which moved on to the U.S. Embassy. There, students demanded persona non grata status for Ambassador Robert Callahan. In remarks before the Managua Chamber of Commerce, the former Contra War John Negroponte partner criticized a Supreme Court decision allowing second presidential and mayoral terms despite constitutional prohibitions. According to rebelion.org, the Foreign Ministry communicated with Callahan Oct. 28 characterizing his action as “politically interfering and destabilizing.”

Cuba: Undersea cable to widen Internet access

Rogelio Polanco, Cuba’s ambassador in Venezuela, recently told reporters work will begin soon on a 400-mile fiber-optic cable connecting Venezuela and Cuba. With branches to the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Central America, the cable will cost $70 million.

Kaosenlared.org said Information Minister Ramón Linares cautioned that because of high costs and social priorities, the cable, targeted for operation in 2011, will not at once remedy Cuba’s problem of reduced internet access, though it is projected to expand Internet capabilities 3,000-fold.

Until now, the U.S. blockade has dictated exclusive reliance upon slow satellite connections.

As of Oct. 26, Cuban authorities had not heard from Florida TeleCuba Communications Co. on plans approved by Washington to lay a cable across the Florida Straits.


W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.