UN: Morales ushers in Mother Earth Day

The United Nation’s General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution, introduced by Bolivian President Evo Morales last week, designating April 22 as International Mother Earth Day. Morales told reporters that Earth has rights, like people. The world’s response so far to climate change, he suggested, indicates the “the rights of Mother Earth are not being respected.” Morales called for observation of basic principles: preservation of ecosystems, action against contamination, “the right to harmony and balance” and human interdependence.

General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto, who followed, urged attention to indigenous peoples, because they “have sustained their profound links with nature.” He also pointed out the link between industrial agricultural to growing poverty rates.

Spain: Unemployment rises sharply

The National Institute of Statistics (INE) released data in late April showing a level of unemployment not seen since 1976.

During the first quarter of 2009, 802,800 workers lost jobs. The total of 4,010,700 unemployed represents 17.6 percent of the workforce.

In the past year 1,836,500 people lost jobs, an 84.4 percent hike over the previous 12 months and affecting men more than women. Unemployment among foreign workers is 28.3 percent, and among Spaniards 15.2 percent. Over 1 million households have no working adults, twice the number a year ago.

The report on rebelion.org documents special victimization of young workers by the economic crisis. Of 766,000 jobs held by those 20 to 29 years of age, 306,800 are gone.

Dominican Republic: Women’s campaign loses battle

The Women’s Forum for Constitutional Rights, joined by physicians, failed to keep an anti-abortion amendment out of the nation’s constitution.

They had earlier worked for repeal of current anti-abortion laws. This time hundreds of women protested outside the National Assembly on April 22 as legislators overwhelmingly approved the amendment supported by President Leonel Fernandez and the Catholic Church. Therapeutic abortions and commonly-used birth control methods are banned.

The Women’s Forum web site said the amendment “condemns hundreds of thousands of women, most of them poor and Catholic, to death because of the impossibility of interrupting a dangerous pregnancy in safe conditions.” Medical experts cited on elnational.com.do agree.

Currently 100,000 Dominican women seek abortions each year.

Israel: Growing defense ties with India

India’s launch April 20 of an intelligence-gathering satellite made by Israel Aerospace Industries reflects increasing sway of an Israeli-Indian-U.S. strategic alliance. That company, also under contract to India for surface-to-air missiles, will reportedly supply India’s defense ministry with at least two more satellites.

In March, Israel overtook Russia as India’s leading arms supplier, according to worldpoliticsreview.com. Current arrangements for Israel to supply weapons worth $2 billion are shaky now, after graft allegations involving $120 million shared between the Israeli company and Indian middlemen.

Indian critics (see cpim.org) worry that India may be sharing intelligence data with Israel, especially because the new satellite shares an orbit with Israeli satellites gathering Middle East intelligence.

China: Economy gains, workers exert pressure.

Premier Wen Jiabao last week emphasized early positive results from government stimulus programs. He mentioned increased investment, consumption and industrial output, plus ample liquidity. Industrial output rose 3.8 percent in January and February, and 8.3 percent in March, up from expansion last year hovering at 5.1 percent. First quarter economic growth rose 6.1 percent, short of the 8 percent People’s Daily cites as the minimum required.

Militant reactions to joblessness explain why the government insists that urban unemployment remain under 5 percent. Over 1,000 angry textile workers in Baoding prefecture, for example, marched the 87 miles to Beijing last month. Wages were late and 400 workers had been fired. They were mollified by owner promises to increase factory investments.

Mozambique: Labor rights go unprotected

A report prepared by the International Trade Union Confederation and available on ituc-csi.org indicates trade union rights are in jeopardy. Many union activities, notably collective bargaining, are severely hampered by legal restrictions and violent repression at the hands of employers.

In export processing zones, unjustified designation of employees’ work as “essential” often entails restrictions on workers’ rights. Women face not only widespread sexual harassment but also discrimination in pay and job assignments. The report highlights abuse of child labor in rural areas, also human trafficking there for labor procurement and sexual exploitation. Recommendations are included for improved training of law enforcement personnel.

Deficiencies exist though Mozambique has ratified eight International Labor Organization labor conventions.

Cuba: Blockade affects Internet access

Cuban representatives at the World Telecommunication Policy Forum late last month in Portugal again denounced U.S.-imposed limitations on Internet access.

Under the U.S. blockade, underwater Internet cables are off limits to Cuba, even those running close to the island. Nor does Cuba’s necessary reliance upon satellites escape U.S. rules. Limitations on broadband width leave all Cuba with access similar to that available to individual companies or private users elsewhere.

The Cuba News Agency reports the International Telecommunications Union has ruled against unilaterally-imposed restrictions. Internet access within Cuba will expand next year when fiber optic cables from Venezuela are in place.

Internet availability presently reaches 12 percent of Cubans with social uses being prioritized.

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit@roadrunner.com)