Western Sahara: UN official visits camps

Some 165,000 loyalists of the Polisario independence movement for Western Sahara live in “precarious conditions” according to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, who last week inspected refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. The last commissioner’s visit occurred in 1976, according to the French news agency AFP.

Polisario leader Mohamed Abdelaziz saw the initiative as boosting talks resumed last month in Austria on a UN independence referendum, ordered 18 years ago. The Polisario Front had contested Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara from 1976, when Spanish colonialists left, until a 1991 ceasefire.

On Aug. 27, Moroccan police abducted and tortured a young woman before releasing her naked outside Laayoune, Western Sahara. Earlier, according to

AllAfrica.com, she and other students were blocked from attending a “peace camp” in England.


Great Britain: Right urges spending cuts

Responding to recession and joined by the Institute of Directors, the Taxpayers Alliance issued a report this month calling for tax relief and over $83 billion in government spending cuts. “Incentives to work, invest, and save” are lacking, according to taxpayersalliance.com.

Reduced spending would finish off a major school construction project and National Health Service computer upgrades. A public sector wage freeze would follow, along with cuts to top public sector salaries, children’s programs and student support grants.

Quoted on Politics.co.uk, student leader Wes Streeting characterized the Taxpayers’ Alliance as “an alliance of right-wing ideologues” mobilized against “hard working people.” Trades Union Congress head Brendan Barber bemoaned “the absence of any cuts in the welfare state for the super-rich.”


Guatemala: Starvation soars

In response to a wave of malnutrition that killed almost 500 people during the first six months of 2009, social democratic President Alvaro Colom last week declared a “state of public calamity” to facilitate emergency food purchases. He sought $110 million in international aid.

At a press conference ending his recent visit there, UN food expert Olivier De Schutter cited causes including severe drought especially in Guatemala’s east, lack of government economic resources and extreme divisions of wealth.

Almost half of Guatemalan children age five or less are chronically malnourished – the highest rate in Latin America and fourth highest in the world. Some 75 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to Inter Press Service.


Philippines: U.S. troops under scrutiny

Citing violations of sovereignty, a group of senators late last month announced plans to seek Senate rejection of agreements permitting U.S. troop activities in the Republic. Senator Miriam Santiago noted U.S. Colonel David Maxwell’s admission that U.S. troops are making direct contact with Abu Sayyaf guerrillas. “If the U.S. wants to use Philippine territory in its alleged war on terror, they will have to negotiate a treaty,” Santiago declared, according to Globalresearch.ca.

The senators relied also on revelations by naval officer Nancy Gadian, an experienced whistleblower, that 500 US soldiers were assigned in Mindanao as “the first line of defense against the enemy where they maintain permanent camps in the island.” U.S. spokespersons denied the allegations.


Afghanistan: Taliban control spreads

In a Sept. 10 press release, the International Council on Security and Development, an international research group, reported the Taliban has established a permanent presence in 80 percent of the country, up from 72 percent in November 2008 and 54 percent a year earlier. Taliban presence had become “substantial” in another 17 percent of Afghanistan.

With influence expanding in the previously secure north, prospects for a safe and early replay or second round of presidential elections held in August dimmed.

The survey regarded one or more insurgent attacks per week as establishing Taliban presence in a given province as permanent. Taliban growth coincides with what Reuters called “the most violent period since the Taliban were toppled … in 2001.”


Cuba: Juan Almeida dies

Juan Almeida Bosque died Sept. 11 at age 82. A bricklayer at age 11, Almeida joined the 1953 assault on the Moncada barracks. As leader of the guerrilla army’s Third Front fighting the Batista dictatorship in the Sierra Maestra mountains, Almeida was designated a “Commandante of the Revolution.” “He went on to head the air force, become an armed forces general, join the Communist Party’s Political Bureau in 1965, and serve as a Council of State Vice President and National Assembly deputy . “

The report on Cubadebate cites “his special humanistic and artistic sensibility” as contributing to the history of the Cuban revolution. As a Black man become revolutionary leader, Almeida had long symbolized the revolution’s break with Cuba’s racist past.


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




Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler estimates he has written 10,000 news reports, exposés, op-eds, and commentaries in his half-century as a journalist for the Worker, Daily World and People’s World. Tim also served as editor of the People’s Weekly World newspaper. He lives in Sequim, Wash., in the home he shared with his beloved late wife Joyce Wheeler. His book News for the 99% is a selection of his writings over the last 50 years representing a kind of history of the nation and the world from a working-class point of view.