World Notes: South Africa, Mexico, South Korea, Romania, Afghanistan, Cuba

South Africa: SACP takes on health care

Blade Nzimande, South African Communist Party General Secretary, indicated on Umsebenzi Online that national health insurance is one of three themes for the party’s “Red October” campaign this year, the others being anti-corruption and removing business interests from public services.

Nzimande outlined the SACP stand for “accessible, affordable and quality health care for all South Africans.” He maintained that “those who have resources must subsidize those who do not have [them]” and condemned a system in which 60 percent of available resources are applied to health care for 14 percent of the people.

The month-long campaign calls for “thousands of red forums” on national health insurance, which when implemented would abolish up-front payments for health care.

Mexico: Mining firm rebuffed

Indigenous struggle led by the Mexican Network of Those Affected by Mining and by the National Front of Struggle for Socialism caused the Canadian company Linear Gold to end four years of gold and silver extraction from its “Ixhuatán” mine in northern Chiapas Oct. 1. The last in a long series of protests occurred Sept. 16 with roadblocks set up in Motozintla municipality.

The advent of foreign mining corporations, mostly Canadian, followed the 1993 constitutional reforms anticipating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and allowing for foreign land ownership.

Protests centering on environmental abuse have denounced open pit mines and water contamination with cyanide used in gold extraction. Linear Gold’s exploration rights extend to almost 500,000 acres of Chiapas land, said.

South Korea: Unions merge, government riled

Three public service unions totaling 110,000 members voted overwhelmingly last month to merge, form the Union of Korean Government Employees, and join the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). Son Young-tae, one of the union presidents, told Hankyoreh News that, “The merging of these three unions is a response to the suppression unions have experienced from the Lee Myung-bak administration.”

Having warned against the merger beforehand, the government expressed concern about the KCTU charter that “stipulates politicization of workers” while “public servants by law are obligated to stay politically neutral.”

The Korea Times reported on imminent prosecution of 89 members of the Korea Teachers and Education Workers Union who earlier this year issued anti-government statements.

Romania: Labor on the move

Protesting dismissals, leaves without pay and salary cuts, 750,000 public sector workers – teachers, health workers, administrators and police – conducted a one-day general strike Oct. 5, the largest in 20 years. Union leaders promised a strike set for Oct. 28 will continue until worker demands are met.

The government, facing a $1.47 billion shortfall and upcoming elections, is promoting austerity measures to qualify for an International Monetary Fund loan, Labor Start reported.

On Oct. 7, 20,000 unionists gathered in Bucharest to observe the World Day of Decent Work. Union leader Bogdan Hossu observed that “[D]ecent work also involves the removal of inequality separating the rich from the poor, a situation having contributed to the crisis.”

Afghanistan: Ranks last in development

The Human Development Index (HDI), part of the 2009 UN Human Development Report issued Oct. 5, ranked Afghanistan 181st among the 182 countries studied. Criteria included life expectancy, literacy, educational enrollment and income level.

Life expectancy for Afghans was 43.6 years; literacy, 28 percent; GDP per capita, $1,054; and combined educational enrollment, 50.1 percent. (This last is the number of students at all educational levels divided by the total “in the theoretical age group.”)

The Human Poverty Index, measuring the proportion of people below designated threshold levels for each HDI criterion, ranks Afghanistan 135th among 135 countries. For example, the probability of survival there beyond age 40 is 40.7 percent; living without clean water, 78 percent; children underweight for age, 39 percent. The 2007 data is available at

Cuba: October milestones

October for Cubans is a month of anniversaries. Che Guevera was killed in Bolivia on Oct. 8, 1967. The Oct. 10 holiday commemorates Carlos Manuel de Céspedes’ launching of Cuba’s first War for Independence from Spain in 1868.

On Oct. 6, 1976, 73 passengers died when Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch bombed and brought down an airliner. That’s a day when U.S. failure to extradite Posada to Venezuela hurts anew, Andres Gomez reported on

And Oct. 13 this year marked the first break in the case of the Cuban Five anti-terrorist prisoners. In accordance with an appeals court order to ameliorate Antonio Guerrero’s sentence, trial judge Joan Lenard implemented a prosecutor-defense agreement to reduce his sentence from life to 20 years.

A protest by the Durban shack dwellers’ organisation Abahlali base Mjondolo




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.