Colombia: Deaths, suffering mount

The forced displacement of 270,675 Colombians during the first half of 2008 signifies a 41 percent rise over the comparable period last year, according to the Council on Human Rights and Displacement. Human rights groups estimate the total displaced at 4 million.

To end the humanitarian crisis, the web site recently called for sociopolitical reforms and negotiated accords with leftist guerrillas.

In New York, Navanethem Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, announced Sept. 30 that from 2002 through 2007, 13,636 Colombians died from “sociopolitical violence”— 10,000 more if combat deaths are included. The report on attributes six of every 10 non-combat deaths to resurgent paramilitary violence and government-fostered impunity.

Western Sahara: Independence struggle continues

“Brutal repression” at the hands of Moroccan police and soldiers in the Western Sahara town of Smara against demonstrators calling for independence for the region was the subject of a petition delivered Sept. 25 to the Moroccan consul in the Canary Islands.

The plea on behalf of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) cited a mounting wave of detentions and assaults on independence advocates in Smara, El Aaiun and Sidi Ifni. said the petition cited “human rights degradation affecting the Sahara people living under Moroccan occupation.”

The United Nations brokered a Moroccan-SADR truce in 1991 grounded on Moroccan promises, unrealized, for a referendum on independence. The SADR, recognized by 46 other nations, belongs to the African Union.

Israel: Departing leader opts for peace

Caretaker Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, leaving office because of corruption charges, told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper last month that for the sake of peace, Israelis must give up occupied West Bank land or exchange it for land in Israel, and leave East Jerusalem.

Recalling a 35-year political career, Olmert said, “For a large portion of these years, I was unwilling to look at reality in all its depth.” His new position, widely denounced in Israel as “too little and too late,” according to Inter Press Service, is at variance with U.S. government support for Israeli occupation of West Bank lands.

Olmert came under criticism last month for his characterization of settler violence as “pogroms.”

Japan: Anti-nuclear campaign grows

Protests against deployment of the U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington in Yokosuka are undiminished. Over 200 marched there Sept. 21, their anger fueled by reports of suspected radioactive leaks from U.S. submarines.

Four days earlier the Okinawa legislature unanimously passed a resolution opposing the entry of nuclear-powered submarines in ports under its jurisdiction. Leaders of the Japan Council Against A and H bombs resolved in mid September to collect 12 million signatures, representing 10 percent of the nation’s population, as part of worldwide preparations for the Review Conference of Parties to the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty set for 2010.

The Japan Press Service suggested that the interregnum between prime ministers favors renewed anti-nuclear pressure.

Spain: Protest privatized health care

On Sept. 23, some 8,000 enraged health workers and health service users demonstrated against the Madrid Health Department’s plans to privatize public health infrastructure. The protesters gathered outside the Ritz Hotel where business leaders were gathered to tap into a billion euros in public funds made available to build new hospitals and health centers and refurbish old public hospitals, all slated for private operation.

The newly formed Madrid Coordinating Committee of Public Health Workers against Privatization mobilized neighborhood groups and health care consumers into a colorful, raucous protest on the theme, “Health care is a right, not a business.” The Committee was lauded on for “brilliantly inaugurating” what will be a long struggle, and for having organized from the ground up.

Cuba: Support sought for hurricane recovery

The Cuban Institute for Friendship among the People (ICAP) last month condemned the U.S. “double standards” under which the media exploits Cuba’s refusal to accept post-hurricane humanitarian aid while a cruel, illegal economic blockade continues.

Cuba will accept no gifts from the U.S. government, it explained, while the blockade persists. But private donations are welcome, even sought.

ICAP provided a listing of agencies accepting donations for Cuban hurricane relief, including:

• IFCO-Pastors for Peace, 418 W. 145th St., New York, NY 10031, (212) 926-2626

• Jewish Solidarity, 100 Beacon Blvd., Miami, FL 33135, Write “Maricusa” on the envelope, “humanitarian relief” on the check.

• Catholic Relief Services , PO Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21203. On the check: “For Cuba Gustav relief.”

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