Haiti: Displaced people, evicted, are abandoned

Early on May 23, Haitian police and agents of Mayor Wilson Jeudy of the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas ransacked and destroyed an encampment of displaced persons. They scattered in the rain, without their meager possessions, with no place to go. New Haitian President Michel Martelly has embarked upon a plan to remove homeless victims of the 2010 earthquake from private and public lands they have occupied. Writing in Haiti Liberte, Melinda Miles writes that if the eviction in Delmas is any indication, the process will unfold “without community consultation, without any known plan for relocation, and with violence.” UN officials say half the people currently still homeless from the earthquake, 680,000 according to estimates, are at risk of forced evictions.

Kazakhstan: Neighboring countries seek role in Afghanistan’s future

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meets in Astana on June 15 amidst signs member states China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are reaching out to Afghanistan. Reporting on a recent SCO foreign ministers meeting in Moscow, RIA Novosti predicts Afghanistan will gain SCO observer status in June. In a related development, Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasou, despite U.S. warnings, visited Beijing May 9-12 to discuss firming up Afghan-Chinese relations. In fact, suggests Global Research, the SCO threatens “the USA’s exclusive right to secure military bases in Afghanistan and other parts of the area.” On May 30, Afghan President Hamid Karzai indicated civilian casualties of the war would “put NATO at the risk of being viewed as an occupying force.”

Italy: Berlusconi on the way out

Second round voting in local elections held May 29-30 left Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right governing coalition in desperate shape, probably facing early national elections in 2012, Reuters reported. Left-center forces made big gains in Milan and other cities, winning by a landslide in Naples. Spokespersons for Berlusconi’s coalition partner, the rightist Northern League, suggested the scandal-plagued media magnate turned politician was a liability now, despite racist pre-election rhetoric Berlusconi served up to please its supporters. With 25 percent of Italians living in poverty, the Berlusconi government is seen as remote from their concerns. Of those aged 29 or less, only 50 percent have employment in northern Italy, only one in three in the south.

Egypt: Stirrings of labor independence

The Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services (CTUWS) on May 29 called upon the government to take steps to ensure trade union independence. In a statement, the CTUWS accused the state supported Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions (EFTU) of continuing repressive measures common in the Mubarak era and demanded that the official labor federation be dismantled on grounds of corruption. According to Ahram Online, the condemnation stemmed from questions as to whether 23 EFTU “top bureaucrats” attending an International Labor Organization conference in Geneva were being paid by the government or by business owners. Established in 1990 under Oxfam auspices to promote Egyptian labor independence, CTUWS had backed textile workers’ strikes seen as weakening the Mubarak status quo.

Great Britain: Oxfam warns of food “cataclysm” in 30 years

Oxfam says one in seven humans are hungry, because “the food system is buckling.” Its report “Growing for a Better Future,” released May 3, lists as causes high food prices, agricultural production diverted to biofuels and meat production, climate change phenomena and high oil prices. Food prices are up in part due to food commodity speculation and massive acquisitions of land taken out of food production. As the report notes, three corporations control 90 percent of world grain sales and 40 percent of U.S. corn ends up in fuel tanks. Oxfam asks “political leaders [to] resist special interests” and “corporate leaders [to] break ranks with damaging industry lobbies.” The EU is urged to support small farmers in developing countries.

Cuba: Proposed U.S. oil sector sanctions elicit response

Oil industry officials announced plans recently to increase oil extraction from Gulf of Mexico oil fields, some in conjunction with foreign partners. In response to U. S. legislation introduced by Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the weekly Trabajadores, newspaper of the CTC labor federation, accuses Ros-Lehtinen, Chairwoman of House Foreign Affairs Committee, of “applying blackmail.”  Her bill, H.R. 2047, would impose new sanctions against foreign corporations investing in Cuban oil production. “We cannot allow the Castro regime to become the oil tycoons of the Caribbean,” she said, according to thehill.com. As Trabajadores points out, however, “Cuba has always said that it would welcome U.S. petroleum companies interested in exploring its waters.” Cuba produces 46 percent of its own hydrocarbon needs.


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

W.T. Whitney Jr. grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont and now lives in rural Maine. He practiced and taught pediatrics for 35 years and long ago joined the Cuba solidarity movement, working with Let Cuba Live of Maine, Pastors for Peace, and the Venceremos Brigade. He writes on Latin America and health issues for the People's World.