Egypt: ‘Emergency’ rule goes on

Parliament voted June 30 to extend emergency rule, in place since 1981, for two more years. In 2006, President Hosni Mubarak’s government promised that after two years of discussion new antiterrorism legislation would be introduced to replace present arrangements under which citizens are held indefinitely without charges.

Al-Ahram Weekly quoted Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif as saying he seeks continuing “national dialogue over a bill” seen as “propelling us along the road to democratic reform.” Opposition MPs issued a statement blaming emergency rule for “the proliferation of human rights abuses, including systematic torture in prisons and police stations.”

Members of Parliament from the Muslim Brotherhood say jailed victims include 50,000 members of the Brotherhood.

Italy: Racism is official policy

Reporting June 25 to a parliamentary committee on a so-called “security emergency,” Interior Minister Roberto Maroni announced government plans to fingerprint all Roma people in Italy. Maroni represents the xenophobic Northern League as part of Italy’s governing right-wing coalition.

Guardian correspondent Peter Popham speculates that racist media hype propelled Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s re-election in April by distracting voters from economic woes.

Italian police have recently taken to raiding Roma camps, claiming to conduct census surveys. Advocacy group Opera Nomadi links mounting Roma fears to memories of fascist depredations during Europe’s 20th century holocaust, when 1.6 million Roma were killed. Spokesperson Marco Nieli recalled that Roma people first arrived in Italy in 1400.

Occupied Territories: Israel limits water

Water available to West Bank Palestinians has fallen to two-thirds the minimum daily requirement. Israeli authorities prohibit new wells and preferentially divert water from the Jordan River and aquifers to Jewish settlements. Water systems fail to reach 20 percent of Palestinians. Water bought privately costs three to six times more for Palestinians than Israelis.

The report issued July 1 by the B’Tselem human rights group documents Israel’s role in water shortages, compounded this year by drought. And according to Inter Press Service, blockade-induced fuel shortages in Gaza have closed down water supply pumps, resulting in lack of regular access to water for most inhabitants.

Shortages of fuel and spare parts mean that tons of unprocessed sewage are pumped daily into the Mediterranean.

Argentina: Summit highlights integration, solidarity

The twice-yearly summit of Mercosur, the South American Common Market, took place early this month in Tucuman, Argentina.

Representatives of associate members Chile, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador joined leaders of Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay in denouncing the European Union’s recently adopted “return directive” authorizing member nations to jail migrants without papers for 18 months before deportation.

Cuba’s Granma newspaper also said Mercosur leaders expressed “solidarity and support” for Bolivia’s government, announcing plans to send observers for that country’s recall referendum Aug. 10. They criticized market speculation on food and energy and named Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano as Mercosur’s first “Illustrious Citizen.”

Cuba: U.S. actions condemned

Cuba’s Foreign Ministry issued an unusual declaration July 2 listing recent actions orchestrated by the U.S. Interests Section in Havana it regards as interventionist, provocative and illegal.

The ministry condemned “courses” for “self-proclaimed journalists” financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development and held at the Interests Section, “semi-clandestine” meetings between U.S. diplomats and heads of counterrevolutionary groups and instructions transmitted to “mercenaries” engaged in public protests.

Interests Section personnel are accused of providing government opponents with cell phones, computers, internet access, “counter-revolutionary propaganda” and money.

The ministry denounced Interests Section head Michael Parmley for his role, revealed in May, in transferring money from anti-Cuban terrorist Santiago Alvarez, now jailed in Florida, to leaders of the anti-government group “Ladies in White.”

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit