Cuba: Children a privileged class

In televised comments on the 20th anniversary of the UN adoption of a Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF official José Juan Ortiz indicated that of nine million children dying each year from preventable causes, none are Cuban. Nor are Cuban children among 126 million children forced to work. Ortiz praised a political will implemented over decades by public health, education, and food industry officials, as well as the Federation of Cuban Women. Additional factors explaining Cuba’s excellent child welfare statistics include breast feeding, early childhood education, and immunizations, according to Cubadebate. “Cuba, a country under blockade, invests its modest resources to save children,” said Ortiz, while “the most powerful nations use $14 billion to save banks.” Only the United States and Somalia have rejected the Convention, signed by 192 nations.

Morocco/Western Sahara: Freedom fighter deported

Aminatou Haidar, known as the “Saharawi Gandhi” for her leadership in resisting Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara, began a hunger strike Nov. 16, after Moroccan authorities deported her to the Canary Islands. Returning from receiving an award in the United States, she found herself blocked from entering Western Sahara, because she designated Western Sahara, not Morocco, as her homeland. Supporters throughout Spain and internationally have protested Spanish complicity evident in her entry into the Canary Islands without a passport, which Morocco has confiscated. Without it she can not leave the Canary Islands. For 18 years, Morocco has refused to implement a UN – ordered referendum on independence for Western Sahara. Europa Press reported a solidarity hunger strike on the part of 300 Western Saharan women.

Afghanistan: British troops shift gears

New counter-insurgency guidelines contained in an Army field manual released last week call for commanders to pay off Afghans to induce them not to join the Taliban. Payments would exceed the daily $10 paid new recruits by the Taliban. Portraying the manual as a “strategic rethink,” Major-General Paul Newton noted, “The best weapons … don’t shoot; use bags of gold in the short term to change the security dynamics. But you don’t just chuck gold at them; this has to be done wisely,” he advised. The night before Prime Minister Gordon Brown, speaking at the annual Lord Mayor’s banquet in London, seemed to be setting out an exit strategy, according to He indicated British troops could be handing over districts to Afghan authorities during 2010.

Philippines: Opposition mounts against foreign mine

Indigenous people, joined by two Catholic Priests, launched a hunger strike in Manila last week to protest a Norwegian company’s plans for open – pit nickel mining operations on 25,000 acres on Mindoro Island. Camped outside the offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, 27 protesters pointed to the bypassing of authorization processes, anticipated infringement on indigenous people’s ancestral domains, scanty royalties and taxes paid by Intex Corporation to the government, and threats to environmental integrity. Fr. Roberto Reyes, quoted by, stated, “I go on hunger strike with the Mangyans and the people of Mindoro who hunger for justice and freedom from exploitation and oppression of foreign multinational corporations and their counterparts in the present regime”.

South Africa: COSATU defends abused migrant workers

In a recurrence of migrant persecution last year, residents of the De Doorn region of Western Cape early this month launched attacks on mostly Zimbabwean undocumented migrants working on nearby farms. With their shacks destroyed, victims found refuge in a rugby stadium. Labor Minister Membathisi Mdladlana accused farmers of violating immigration laws to secure cheap labor.  Africa Unite, a migrant advocacy organization, weighed in by suggesting that many South Africans, confronting persistent poverty and joblessness, transfer anger to foreign migrants. As reported on, Mike Louw of the COSATU labor federation last week affirmed that job entitlement, “is a human rights issue, a humanitarian issue that needs to be dealt with,” not a matter of nationality.

Haiti: Elections three months off, Lavalas prepares

The Provisional Electoral Council, reconstituted in October, has set parliamentary elections for Feb. 28, 2010. Kim Ives attributes unusual haste in organizing the elections to President René Préval’s determination to fit in two parliamentary sessions before leaving office in 2011. Two are needed for instituting sought- after constitutional changes. Political party leaders, leery of bureaucratic obstacles, denounced the rushed schedule. Participation of the Lavalas Party remains uncertain. CEP exclusion of the party backing exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide – removed in a U.S. engineered coup five years ago – triggered a nationwide boycott of Senate elections earlier this year. Lavalas has repaired a factional divide. The United Nations will provide $18 million toward election funding.




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.