Chile: Indigenous people mark Day of the Race

Demanding rights for indigenous people, 5,000 Mapuche people and supporters marched in Santiago Oct. 12 protesting the loss of ancestral land from state violence. Mapuche is the name given to Chile’s indigenous people.

Spokesperson Manuel Calfiu, quoted by, repudiated “500 years of the Spanish invasion” and 200 years of “discrimination, racism, and hatred” by the national government.

After 18 years of delay the government last month ratified International Convention 169 on indigenous rights, but only under pressure from indigenous mobilizations, said Calfiu, who views Chile’s constitution as racist.  “Capitalism is the main cause of the suffering of our children, old people, and women,” he added.

Forty Mapuche are now held as political prisoners.   

Britain: Labor government plans privatization

Responding to government debt projections of over $359 billion – 12 per cent of the GDP – Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week announced what called a “fire-sale.” On the market will be $26 billion worth of public properties including local holdings worth more than $21 billion.

Community leaders predict public housing will be decimated and, according to Local Government Association leader Margaret Eaton, “school playing fields, cemeteries, [and] libraries” will be sold off.

The government will be unloading the nationalized bookmaking service; the Thames Bridge serving high speed rail, the Channel Tunnel rail link and the national student loan service. Debt reduction and privatization are seen as dominating the 2010 national elections.

United Nations: Rich countries cut food aid

Reduced donations from rich countries have forced the UN World Food Program (WFP) to cut back on food deliveries for an estimated 40 million starving people. Food aid is now at its lowest point in 20 years.

The result could be “loss of a generation” of children,” WFP head Josette Sheeran recently told the UK Guardian. “We are facing a silent tsunami,” she said.

The WFP now feeds almost 100 million people annually. World food supplies are down due to widespread drought, severe storms, and floods. Worldwide unemployment and a 20 percent cut in remittances to poor countries are exacerbating human needs. The United States has pledged $800,000 less this year for food aid than in 2008.

Gibraltar: Moroccan workers’ rights violated

The International Center for Trade Union Rights and the Gibraltar branch of the Transport and General Workers Union/UNITE last week sharply criticized discrimination against Moroccan workers in the self-governing British territory of Gibraltar, overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar.

The unions charged the Moroccan workers are kept out of the political process, have inadequate access to public housing and services, suffer discrimination when applying for citizenship and face major difficulties regarding visas and travel.

The report calls on Britain and the Gibraltar government to extend all social security and welfare benefits to the Moroccan community, end discrimination in public housing, ensure long-term residents the right to vote and liberalize visa rules to reunite families.

Afghanistan: Most Afghans suffer stress disorders

“Recent surveys conducted by national and international organizations indicate that 66 percent of [all] Afghans are suffering from stress disorders and mental problems,” the Afghan Ministry of Public Health said earlier this month.

The UN’s IRIN news agency said surveys by organizations including Care International and Physicians for Human Rights show a high rate of post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and anxiety among Afghan civilians. Besides war-related violence, contributing factors including domestic violence, lack of food and water, and lack of shelter.

But currently only one psychiatric hospital, serving some 2,500 patients including up to 100 inpatients, is available for a population of over 28 million. The Ministry of Public Health is seeking more donor funding and working to expand the number of trained mental health professionals.

Cuba: Children are a privileged class

As the United Nations Children’s Fund released its annual report, Progress for Children, on Oct. 6, José Juan Ortiz, UNICEF’s representative in Cuba, highlighted the country’s achievements in child protection, the theme of this year’s report.  

Ortiz contrasted the wellbeing of Cuban children with the unprotected legal status of millions of children worldwide, Cuba’s ACN news reported. At a public session anticipating the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – yet to be signed by the U.S. – Ortiz said child development in Cuba is comparable to that of wealthy nations. He said continued school attendance after last year’s devastating hurricanes reflected well upon the government’s support of children.



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.

Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986 and currently participates as a volunteer. Marilyn Bechtel escribe desde el Área de la Bahía de San Francisco. Se unió al personal de PW en 1986 y actualmente participa como voluntaria.