Friday, May 30, 2008

Zimbabwe News Update: First Lady Attacks Western-backed Opposition; President Slams Political Violence; Leaders Blast Rich Nations on Trade

Grace Mugabe attacks MDC

By Fanuel Jongwe

President Robert Mugabe will never vacate his office for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai even if he loses a run-off election next month, the Zimbabwean leader's wife said on Thursday.

Grace Mugabe told followers of her husband's Zanu-PF party that Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would not be allowed to take power under any circumstances.

"Even if people vote for the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai will never step foot inside State House," she said after meeting victims of political violence that has rocked Zimbabwe since the first round of voting on 29 March.

Strong words from Grace Mugabe

"He will only get to hear about what it looks like inside State House from people who have been there. Even if Baba (Mugabe) loses, he will only leave State House to make way for someone from Zanu-PF."

The 84-year-old president, who has ruled the former British colony since independence in 1980, is to square off against Tsvangirai on 27 June after an inconclusive first round.

Tsvangirai fell just short of an outright majority on 29 March needed to avoid a run-off, although the MDC wrested control of parliament from Zanu-PF in a legislative poll that took place at the same time.

Grace Mugabe, who is 40 years Mugabe's junior, accompanied her husband to the rural area of Shamva, northeast of Harare, for a tour of a homestead which was allegedly burned down by MDC followers.

"What we saw really touched us. We are not animals but humans. If you burn down someone's house you want to destroy their life," the president said.

"We want to warn the MDC they should stop immediately this barbaric campaign of burning and destroying people's homes."

Post-election violence

While Mugabe has laid the blame for post-election violence at the feet of the MDC, the United Nations and human rights groups say that Zanu-PF has been responsible for the lion's share.

The MDC says more than 50 of its supporters have been killed by pro-Mugabe militias since 29 March, and tens of thousands displaced, as part of a campaign of intimidation designed to ensure victory for Mugabe on 27 June.

In his address to supporters, Mugabe acknowledged that the country — which currently has the world's highest rate of inflation — was going through tough times but he said food shortages were not the fault of his government.

"There might be grievances about prices, food shortages and non-availability of basic commodities. These are being caused by sanctions and food shortages are a result of drought," he said, adding that recent purchases should alleviate the situation.

"We have bought a lot of maize from our neighbouring countries. What we have so far is 600 000 tonnes which was paid for."

A one-time regional breadbasket, Zimbabwe now experiences shortages of basic foodstuffs such as sugar and cooking oil.

With inflation running at over 165 000 percent, shops that do manage to find supplies increase their prices several times a day.

Mugabe and his inner circle have been subject to a limited package of Western sanctions since he allegedly rigged his re-election in 2002.


President slams violence

By Sydney Kawadza

PRESIDENT MUGABE yesterday described the orgy of violence perpetrated by the MDC-T as barbaric after he and First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe visited the homes of some victims of the opposition attacks in Shamva, Mashonaland Central.

Addressing a rally after visiting the homes of affected families, President Mugabe said he was saddened by what he had seen at the homes.

"We have seen the violent activities of the MDC-T in Shamva and other areas across the country. Tasuruvara nezvataona. Hatisi mhuka dzinopisirana dzimba, destroying other people’s property.

"The MDC-T should stop immediately this barbaric campaign of arson, destroying and harming people, destroying lives," he said.

Speaking at the same rally, Amai Mugabe deplored violent activities after the March 29 elections.

"We have come to see the victims of violence and I want to urge people to avoid fighting each other. Musarovana, musapisirana dzimba nekuti pamunorwisana varungu vanenge varikudzimba dzavo vachiona vachingoti onai vanhu vatema havafunge, havana kurongeka; sei vasingabatsire kana pakaitika matambudziko akadai?" she said.

Amai Mugabe urged Zanu-PF supporters and MDC-T to co-exist as no one would benefit from acts of retribution.

The First Lady donated asbestos roofing sheets, clothes, groceries and $20 billion each to the affected families.

Two MDC-T supporters, who were also victims of the violent clashes, could not receive their donations yesterday because they were not present.

Cde Mugabe also donated 200 computers to 20 schools in Mashonaland Central.

Turning to the June 27 run-off, President Mugabe said this was an important election that will determine whether the country remains with the people of Zimbabwe or goes back to Rhodesians.

He said the March 29 harmonised election result was saddening, adding that he hoped that people would vote wisely in the forthcoming election.

"We are sad for the people who were bought and sold out. These people are in the party, in the communities and shamed us as a party. I would, however, want to thank the people who voted for Zanu-PF and made sure that there was no winner.

"Kune vamwe pakati pedu vakakwanisa kuvhotera Zanu-PF uye ndivo vakaita kuti kusawanikwe anokunda, kuite mangange. Saka ndimi makaita kuti Zanu-PF ivepo, ndimi makaita kuti nhasi ndive pano," Cde Mugabe said.

He said it was fortunate that laws in the country provided for a run-off after a stalemate in the presidential poll.

"There was no winner according to our laws. Iyi yatavakupinda ielection yekupedza mangange aya. Moenda munhu woga-woga, muudze vamwe vangangodaro vasina kukwanisa kuuya pano kuti musi waJune 27 hapana anosara, kana anenzara anofizukira ikoko.

"Your vote is important, we are not happy with the results
after the elections but go and vote together. Traditional leaders should go with their people even in the areas where the party lost. We must make sure that we retain our votes in those areas," he said.

Cde Mugabe expressed concern at the performance of the party in Mashonaland Central, where it lost two House of Assembly constituencies -- Bindura South and Mazowe West -- in the March 29 elections.

"Taiziva province ino iri province isina anozunguza, isina kana buri asi yakaita maburi maviri saka takaona magwanza maviri kuBindura South nekuti Mazowe West.

"Rangarirai kuti kuno kuMashonaland Central ndikokwakabva Mbuya Nehanda, ndiko kwakatanga Chimurenga chekutanga uye chechipiri. Saka munofanira kuziva kuti midzimu yakaramba kuti nyika iyerere.

"KuMazowe ndiko kwaMbuya Nehanda saka ivo vanoti mavakundiregereraka.

"Should we get people who do not support the land issue? Ivhu ravanhu rakakosha. We are rocking as nation and on June 27 when you go to vote, you should vote to show that Rhodesia is gone forever and Zimbabwe shall live forever," he said.

Cde Mugabe said Zanu-PF was aware of the issues that are affecting the people such as shortages of food and basic commodities and the ever-escalating prices of goods.

"However, these issues are being caused by sanctions, drought periods and heavy rains that affected agricultural production last year.

"We had grown maize in our fields, but it was destroyed by the heavy rains. However, Governor Gono has told me that the Reserve Bank has paid for 600 000 tonnes of maize from South Africa and is awaiting delivery and enough maize is coming to the people so that they would not suffer," he said.

Cde Mugabe said Government had also come up with programmes that would help people overcome the shortages, price hikes and other challenges.

He said the British had imposed sanctions so that people would lose track and stop supporting their party.

"MaBritish akaisa masanctions kuti akanganise vanhu kuti vati torega kubatana neZanu-PF, torega nekuti tashaya, musangano weZanu-PF hausisina kunaka, toenda kubva muZanu-PF.

"Did you join Zanu-PF for sugar, salt or for our land? We can have these shortages, but we need to work, produce and be fine. We can work on the land to produce food that would sustain us before we are rich or before we start selling our produce."

Cde Mugabe said Government was working on empowering the people because whites were enjoying the fruits of the land.

"We want to empower the people but there are others who are saying the people are starving because they (white farmers) are gone, but they did not produce any food. The people in the communal farmers were producing for the nation when farmers were growing tobacco and other cash crops.

"We took the farms and gave them to the people and there are more farms that are going to be allocated to those who need them," he said.

He said Government also wanted to empower its citizens in the spheres of commercial business and manufacturing industry.

"We want our people, blacks, to have control, to have more than 51 percent. Murungu hatichadi kuti awane zvinopfuura 49 percent. There should be minor shareholders and the same should be in the mining sector.

"We have made laws, but had not started using them and we want to do that for our children. Our children should not go to school so that they are other people’s workers.

"Tinoda kuzviitirawo, tizvivambire mabasa, tine mapurazi saka toda kuti vana vedu vaite varidzi vambabhizimusi aya. Whites can only come as partners while we control — ngavabate kutete isu tobata kukobvu.

"Ndozvirikurambwa naTsvangirai, hanzi varungu vauye vatonge. Ane zvakawanda zvaakataura, hanzi muchafa nenzara nekuti masiisa varungu mabasa."

President Mugabe castigated Tsvangirai for calling for sanctions against the country, which are now hurting the people.

"Tsvangirai akatenderera kunyika dzakawanda, akaenda kuSouth Africa akati dzimai magetsi, vakaramba. Akazoenda kuBritain kunokumbira masanctions, vakabvumira, vakati chakapusa achakuvadza hama dzake," he said.

President Mugabe said Government had stopped relying on the European countries after the sanctions and was looking East instead.

"Mari yekunze yatinenge taita inotorwa nemaAmericans nenyaya yemasanctions. Vanoti vanogwadama chete nemasanctions nekuti vakatora mapurazi. Takati never ever, hazviite. Tikati you can go hang, keep your little Britain and we can keep our Zimbabwe.

"Tiri vanhu vevhu. Hapana pasingararami tisina ivhu," he said.

President Mugabe castigated some companies that were undermining Government efforts to make goods available to the people by increasing prices after workers are awarded salary increments.

"We recently took to task Seed Co for hiking prices of wheat seed, which they reduced but we have heard that it has been increased again.

"These companies want to make things bad for us as we head for the elections. Izvozvo ngazviregerwe. We want that to stop so that we secure the future of the country, the future which is our land, heritage, kuzvitongera uye kuvanesimba rekutonga nyika yedu," he said.

He said there were many programmes to upgrade roads, increase electricity generation and others that have been affected by shortages of funds but Government was determined to complete these.

At the same rally, Amai Mugabe said people should vote for President Mugabe since he is fighting for the future generations.

"President Mugabe is a modest man who does not want to gain anything from ruling the country. He works for the people. But the whites are saying he is clever and they want to get rid of him.

"Tsvangirai has done nothing for the nation. He survives from what he gets from his white masters and comparing President Mugabe and Tsvangirai is an insult. People will only realise this after they have lost their land because they want sugar, salt and other foods," she said.

She said she was surprised that after getting implements to use on their farms, people still expected President Mugabe to give them more.

She said President Mugabe would not be removed from his position by any other person other than from the ruling party.

"Tsvangirai haapatsike paState House. Baba vanotobva kana pauya munhu weZanu-PF anoziva kuchengetedza nhaka yedu," she said.

Amai Mugabe also distributed over a thousand pairs of shoes to the community and 800 T-shirts to war veterans in the district while Cde Crispen Rwizi, who lost his tractor during an attack by MDC-T supporters, would get a replacement.


African leaders blast rich nations for ignoring trade inequalities

Business Reporter

YOKOHAMA. African leaders have blasted rich nations for failing to tackle trade inequalities even as they make lofty pledges to boost aid in developing countries.

This emerged in Yokohama, Japan where 40 head of states from Africa are attending a conference to discuss economic growth, stability and climate change.

The African leaders also said they were more concerned about the unfair trade deals.

Among the leaders are Ugandan President Mr Yoweri Museveni, South African President Mr Thabo Mbeki and Tanzanian President Mr Jakaya Kikwete and senior Government representatives.

Foreign media reports quoted Mr Museveni on Wednesday saying problems bedeviling the continent were largely as result of bad policies of Western countries.

"There is a big problem of food in the world now and a problem of energy.

"In Uganda, there is a problem of a different kind. We have too much food and no market to export it to," said Mr Museveni.

"Why? Because of bad policies in Europe, America and even in Japan," he added.

Mr Museveni said Uganda was facing "a real struggle" to get a fair deal for its natural resources, including agricultural and mineral products.

He gave an example of a kilogramme of unprocessed Ugandan coffee sold for one dollar at home but for 14 dollars in Britain after it has been refined.

"I see some people here who are called donors," Mr Museveni told the conference audience.

"Now, I really have a problem with that definition. Because I don’t know who’s helping who?"

According to Fair trade campaigners, poor countries have been forced to open up their markets while rich nations have kept unfair practices such as farm subsidies, while multinational companies fail to give farmers a fair deal.

Mr Kikwete also echoed the same sentiments and called for increased trade and investment, and more development on the African continent. Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Simbarashe Mumbengegwi who is also attending the conference charged that foreign aid policies were slanted to serve political ends.

"The structure of lopsided power distribution in the United Nations system, particularly in the Security Council, is replicated in the development institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund," Mr Mumbengegwi also said.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has since pledged to double aid to Africa by 2012 and to help the continent boost rice production two-fold to ease food shortages.

In recent weeks soaring food prices such as rice, wheat and corn in some of the world’s poorest nations have sparked demonstrations across Africa.

The three day conference is seen as efforts by Japan to expand its influence in Africa, where China and India are also seeking closer ties and supplies of natural resources to fuel their rapid economic growth.

Japan also announced a US$2,5 billion initiative to help its companies do business in Africa, paving the way for private sector investment. — Business Reporter.

Europe Fuel Protests Spread Wider

Europe fuel protests spread wider

Fuel protests triggered by rising oil prices have spread to more countries across Europe, with thousands of fishermen on strike.

Union leaders said Portugal's entire coastal fleet stayed in port on Friday, while in Spain, 7,000 fishermen held protests at the agriculture ministry.

French fishermen have been protesting for weeks, with Belgian and Italian colleagues also involved.

UK and Dutch lorry drivers held similar protests earlier this week.

The strike reflects anger at the rising cost of fuel, with oil prices above $130 (83.40 euros; £65.80) a barrel.

Trade unions say the cost of diesel has become prohibitively high, after rising 300% over the past five years.

Wholesale fish prices, meanwhile, have been static for 20 years.

Fishermen's leaders from France, Spain and Italy have been meeting in Paris to co-ordinate strikes and protests over the next three weeks in the run-up to a European Union fisheries ministers' meeting.

The protesters are calling for direct immediate aid for the fisheries industry, coupled with increased subsidies.

The European Commission said in a statement it was willing to show flexibility towards the industry but it has ruled out subsidies to offset rising fuel costs.

Short-term aid packages were acceptable as long as they were used to address structural deficiencies in the fleets, it said.

'Ruin for fishermen'

Several thousand fishermen marched on the agriculture ministry in Madrid, where they handed out 20 tonnes of fresh fish to members of the public in an attempt to draw attention to their ailing industry.

Many blew whistles and klaxons, and let off firecrackers producing red smoke.

The BBC's Steve Kingstone at the protest said he could see flags from Catalonia, the Basque country and Galicia.

One banner read: "Soaring diesel plus cheap fish equals ruin for fishermen." Another chided Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero: "You are sending us to the cemetery."

One union leader in Barcelona said the country's fishing fleet was at a standstill.

"Compliance is total. The entire Spanish coast is at a halt," Jose Caparros told AFP news agency.

The unions also say they could blockade ports, a day after French police forcibly removed fishermen blocking oil depots.

"We must mobilise like the French and if we have to block ports, we'll block them," Xavier Aboy, a union leader in Galicia, told AFP.

In France the authorities have offered 100m euros in aid, prompting some fishermen to return to work.

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At dawn on Thursday, French riot police cleared protesters from the Mediterranean oil depots of Fos-sur-Mer and Lavera, and a Total refinery at La Mede in the south.

On the same day police clashed with fishermen who burned tyres in the Atlantic port of Lorient, while hundreds protested in Quimper, Brittany.

On Friday, protesters blockaded the Channel port of Le Havre.

Hundreds of farmers have also been blocking oil terminals near the cities of Dijon and Toulouse.

In Italy, at least 5,000 fishermen are expected to strike, the main trade union Federcoopesca says. The government has already refused emergency aid to the industry.

But the BBC's David Willey in Rome says many fishermen are adopting a wait-and-see policy as talks with the government continue, and in the Adriatic ports the response to the strike has been mixed.

"No boats went out" in Portugal, a union leader there said, and in the central port of Peniche boat owners set up a barrier to prevent unloading.

Bulgarian bus drivers are also planning a one-hour strike on Friday, following protests by lorry drivers on Wednesday.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/europe/7426971.stm
Published: 2008/05/30 12:55:14 GMT


Q&A: Record oil prices

Oil prices recently hit record highs above $135 a barrel and have doubled in less than a year.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called on producers to increase supply.

However, producers say that there is plenty of supply and blame the high prices on speculators.

Why are oil prices so high?

Economists will tell you that prices are set by supply and demand and, indeed, at the heart of the rise in oil prices are what are known as the fundamentals.

Demand for oil has been growing as Asia's power-house economies such as China and India fuel their rapid economic expansion.

At the same time, there are all sorts of worries about the supply of oil.

A lot of the world's oil comes from somewhat unstable countries, so every time oil workers are attacked in Nigeria or Iraqi oil facilities are damaged, people get concerned about the supply of oil.

So fundamentally, people are worried that demand may be growing faster than supply, and oil is such an important commodity that they are prepared to pay more and more for it if they are worried.

That all sounds pretty simple then

Well it would be if everybody had exact figures for the fundamentals that influence oil prices.

The problem is that nobody knows exactly how much oil there is in the ground, many producers are a bit cagey about admitting how much they have taken out and we do not know how much oil is in tankers being shipped around the world.

On top of that, we do not have reliable figures for how much oil most countries have squirreled away in case of emergencies or indeed exactly how much oil is being consumed.

So what determines prices is not the fundamentals but everybody's perceptions of the fundamentals.

That means that when proper figures, such as the weekly US inventories figures, are released, undue weight is placed on them because few countries are so transparent.

But other than that it's just like any other commodity?

Unfortunately not.

First of all there is the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), which controls 55% of the world's oil exports.

The idea is that its members only raise or lower their production when all the other members do.

It does not always work, but it certainly means that oil is not a free market.

Also, there is a finite amount of oil in the world.

The oil that has been taken out of the ground first is the easiest, and therefore cheapest, to access.

As oil prices rise, it becomes financial viable to spend more to extract oil that is in trickier places to mine.

But as the available oil is depleted, the price will naturally rise because it is harder to find and more expensive to mine.

In addition, when there is talk about supply being threatened by unrest in the Middle East or storms in the Gulf of Mexico, how much of a problem these factors will actually be is generally a guess.

So is it unfair to blame the speculators?

The speculators certainly have a part to play in all this.

To an increasing extent, financial institutions are trading in oil as an investment like shares or currencies.

They buy oil contracts in the hope that their value will go up before they sell them.

Alternatively, if they think the price will fall, they may sell oil contracts they do not have and buy them later, in time to settle the deal.

Even those who believe that the market is based on fundamentals accept that the participation of speculators has created greater volatility in the market.

Factors that in the past might have moved the price by a few cents could now move it by more than a dollar.

It has also given sudden relevance to factors that in the past would not have moved oil prices at all.

What sort of factors?

Events such as rocket testing in North Korea have been cited as reasons for the rising price of oil.

But it is hard to imagine how it could have any direct effect on its supply or demand.

In a market with such a serious shortage of reliable information, as long as enough people believe that a factor will affect the oil price, it will.

And in some cases the effect of factors have been reversed.

How can that happen?

Up until less than a year ago, a weakening US dollar would have been seen as a sign of weakness in the US economy, which would have meant that demand for oil was likely to fall and so the oil price would fall.

But recently, many traders have believed that some people are treating oil and the dollar as alternative investments.

So, if they think the dollar is falling they will buy oil instead and if they think oil is falling they will buy dollars instead.

Because people believe this to be the case, a negative relationship has built up between the oil price and the dollar.

Whether people are actually treating the two as alternative investments is no longer important - what matters is that people believe that they do.

But a market based on so little concrete information and so much belief is vulnerable to people changing their minds.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/business/7425489.stm
Published: 2008/05/29 14:14:55 GMT


Rising fuel prices: European views

BBC News website readers across Europe have been reacting to the continent's surging fuel prices, which have prompted blockades and strikes in Spain, France and the UK.
Read some of their comments below and send us your own experiences.

AFFECTED BY FUEL PRICES AND BLOCKADES

The price of oil is already affecting my lifestyle. I am forced to walk more to get to where I need to go, only using the car when compulsory. I am just buying a few litres of fuel at a time. Before, I usually filled the tank up, but no more.
Adgun Olosun, Ostbevern, Germany

The blockades have caused a fuel nightmare across France. We live in a small village 30 minutes from Poitiers and have been facing fuel shortages. People are panic buying which has led to most fuel stations running out. Our local fuel station has run out too. As it's 12 miles away I face another 20 mile drive to the next. Like some I didn't panic and rush out and fill up, but now with only a quarter of a tank left I don't think I can waste all that driving around trying to fill up.
Claire Brown, Menigoute, Deux-Sevres, France

It is not just the high oil prices which will force me to change the way I live but also the general costs of running a car. I will retire next year and had planned to buy a new smaller car. I am now planning to move into the city and go without a car altogether. Many people have been complaining about the rise in oil prices for some time in Germany but, judging by the traffic on the Autobahns, no one seems to be driving less. Not even warnings about global warming have had an effect.
Roger Pring, Munich, Germany

As an economist I understand that the current situation over oil prices is the only way to reduce petrol consumption and limit the damaging effects on the environment. As a result I cycle, despite the fact that here in Bulgaria we do not have special lanes and generally there are many accidents with bicycles on the road. Dangerous, but green!
Todor, Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Everybody but the richest will be affected by the rising oil prices. Personally I am affected because I am having to spend more money on food, transportation, clothes and so on. So many things depend on oil and it is impossible not to change the way you live.
Pavlin Lukanov, Sofia, Bulgaria

I'm affected as I ride a motorbike for fun and have a diesel guzzling 4x4 car. I pay horrendous amounts of road tax, despite the car being the most fuel efficient I have ever had, and having bought a diesel because it was supposedly greener. I'm looking forward to when oil runs out and I'll be able to use chip fat to power the car. I'm a little cynical about the Opec engineered oil prices, which are only benefiting the oil companies.
JC Lux, Luxembourg


UNAFFECTED BY FUEL PRICES

I live in Berlin Germany where we have sidewalks, bike lanes and an excellent public transport system, which is affordable. As a matter of fact, I have never felt the need to acquire a driver's licence. Therefore there's no change in the way I live.
Daniela, Berlin, Germany

No, I am not affected. Either the oil is running out, or it isn't. If it isn't, there's no problem. If it is, I say we use it up in style and with gusto. I'm going to keep driving my big car as much as I can until petrol supplies either run out or become unaffordable. The alternative is to eke it out until we reach a point where motorists will only be allowed to drive their cars five miles a week, on designated days. Better to splurge now than end up measuring drops. Live with your foot on the accelerator, I say!
P J Molloy, Dublin, Ireland

My memory has served me well. Memory of the 1973 and 1980 oil shocks and ever since, I have tried hard to consider using fuel a privilege rather than a right. I am accustomed to using trains and cycling whenever I can. My car is very efficient and I drive it sparingly. There will be other price increases, such as foodstuffs, that will simply require adjustments, but no quality compromises. As a society, we have lived high on the hog for so long, mostly at the expense of others. No need to whine now.
M R, Munich, Germany

No it won't. Instead of flying I will take the train, since I hardly ever travel outside Europe anyhow. You can get almost anywhere in Europe by sleeper train in less than 24 hours. It's not that much worse than flying, and will only require a minor adjustment. I live in a city where you can cycle most places faster than driving and if it snows there is the metro. As for food, fresh produce has always been expensive and consumed a large proportion of my income, so nothing new there.
Matt, Vienna, Austria

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/europe/7423635.stm
Published: 2008/05/28 15:10:06 GMT


Who knows why oil prices are so high?

By Anthony Reuben
Business reporter, BBC News

Various reports have attributed the recent record breaking rise in oil prices to different reasons, but who is correct?

Some say it is because the Opec cartel is unwilling to boost its supply levels.

Others say it is because of fears about supplies from other countries such as Nigeria and Venezuela.

But the truth is, it could be something completely different.

The fundamentals

"Why did it happen on Tuesday? Nobody really knows for a fact what's happening or where it's going," says John Hall from the energy consultancy John Hall Associates.

So what is it that moves oil prices up and down?

"It's the fundamentals, stupid," says Mark Lewis from Energy Market Consultants.

The fundamentals are factors that influence the supply of, and demand for, oil.

Things such as the increasing demand from China and India, as well as fears that a stand-off between the US and Iran could interrupt supplies, have been raising oil prices.

Alternatively, financial factors may be at work, such as a hedge fund having to sell a particular oil contract so it does not end up receiving a tanker-load of oil - or a trader deciding it would be fun to be the first to trade oil above $100 a barrel.

The problem is, much fundamental information is not freely available.

No sense

"We really don't know what the fundamentals are doing at any point in time," Mr Lewis says.

"The markets are looking for signals from the fundamentals. Some of them are irrelevant, some of them are wrong, some of them are meaningless, but they affect prices nevertheless."

When the New York oil price broke through $100 a barrel for the first time at the start of 2008, one of the factors cited as being behind it was the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan on 27 December 2007.

"That didn't strike us as making any sense at the time," says Sean Cronin, editor of Argus Global Markets.

He says that people are too keen to attribute market moves to geopolitical factors.

He attributes rising prices to over-optimistic expectations of oil production by non-Opec countries - and also to signs that Opec members appear to have a greater tendency to stick to their output limits.

'Can't sit around'

These long-term trends are all very well, but oil traders have to make quick decisions.

"You can't sit around a day or two and see what happens," says Mr Hall.

"So the rocket testing in North Korea [previously cited as a reason for rising prices] or the assassination of Benazir Bhutto turned out to have no real effect, but they might have done."

Some of the factors that are more likely to influence oil supply and demand, such as figures of oil demand from China, are not available.

That means that minor news of fundamentals, such as the output of a single refinery, may be given too much weight.

"Little changes in insignificant parts of the fundamental picture, if they're visible, can have a substantial impact on the oil price - substantial in the sense of several dollars," Mr Lewis says.

Dotcom boom

So there appears to be a distinction between the factors that raise the oil price because they affect sentiment and the ones that genuinely affect supply and demand for oil.

And it may be that rises due to the former are vulnerable.

"It's like the dotcom boom in the 1990s," says Mr Lewis. "It was overinflated, but as long as everyone kept believing in it, the price went up."

"When they stopped believing in it, the price went down. And that's a warning."

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/business/7255447.stm
Published: 2008/05/22 13:37:24 GMT

An Open Letter on Cynthia McKinney To Conscious African-Americans

Dear Abayomi,

Here is a letter that you can access on the http://www.runcynthiarun.org website that I thought you might circulate on the PANW. It has the signatures of several well known leaders including Pam Africa and Monica Moorehead.

In solidarity,

Fred Vitale
------------------------------------------------------
AN OPEN LETTER RE CYNTHIA MCKINNEY
TO OUR POLITICALLY CONSCIOUS
SISTERS AND BROTHERS OF BLACK AMERICA

For far too long Black America has been at the mercy of political pimps and usurpers, particularly of the Democratic Party. It is now the year 2008, and we in Black America, in conjunction with our Brown, Red, Yellow, and White sisters and brothers have a genuine and serious choice in order to build a true people's movement for real systemic change through the "Power to the People" campaign inspired by former U.S. Congresswoman Sister Cynthia McKinney.

Cynthia Mckinney has demonstrated that she wants, and is fighting for, real, systemic change; which is the only change that will address the health care, employment, judicial, and environmental needs of all people.

STEP UP TO THE PLATE NOW

Sister Cynthia is not a corporately sponsored clone like John McCain, Barack, or Hillary Clinton. She is The Real People's Candidate. Cynthia knows that her campaign is about building the opportunity for a different America; an America that supports and believes in itself and the peoples of the world in a very real sense.

For Sister Cynthia's campaign to be able to lay the serious organizational foundation that is sorely needed by us all takes money -- your money. The nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars that allow this beautiful and powerful sister to go around this nation with her/OUR message -- that we do not have to be, and refuse to be, hostages to what Brother Malcolm X correctly referred to as the "foxes and the wolves" of the Democratic and Republican Parties [i.e. the Republicrats].

Every bit of physical and mental energy as well as every single cent from all of us is needed in this struggle. Cynthia, unlike the candidates of the Democratic and Republican Parties is NOT corporately backed. This means that WE THE PEOPLE must step up to the plate and support her campaign and in so doing -- support ourselves!

Sister Cynthia McKinney is the ONLY one who seriously and fundamentally addresses our issues -- the concerns of Black America: self-determination, reparations, judicial equality, police brutality, COINTELPRO, political prisoners, employment, decent housing, environmental justice, educational parity, and the absolute end to unjust U.S. wars at home and abroad.

Sister Cynthia McKinney must be Supported NOW! At stake is literally EVERYTHING. Time to give our dollars to Cynthia's 'Power To The People' Campaign; for it is we the people's -- OUR CAMPAIGN! Do it now my brothers and sisters. Do it Now!

To make a financial contribution, please go to the campaign website at http://www.runcynthiarun.org and make your donation via PayPal by clicking "Donate" and following the instructions. You can also send your check or money order to Power to the People, P.O. Box 311759, Atlanta, GA 31131-1759.

Sister Cynthia McKinney speaks truth to power! She is one of US. She does not pretend that the legacy of slavery is in the past. She makes it clear that jobs, justice, and equality are more important than ever before. She is bold about the fact that Black Liberation is a very important and serious ongoing struggle in the United States of America.

By supporting Cynthia, we support ourselves and our own humanity. We must do this and we must urge our sisters and brother to send every dollar, dime, nickel, and penny to support ourselves -- to support the Cynthia McKinney campaign for President. Remember that "the journey of thousand miles begins with the first step"!

ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

----------------------------------------------

Open Letter Initiated by:

Larry Pinkney
Editorial Board Member & Columnist
The Black Commentator &
Founder / Director
Black Activist Writers Guild
Email: Lecconsult@aol.com

Colia L. Clark
Reconstruction Party Organizing Committee
Richard Wright Centennial 2008-2010
Email: ColiaClark@aol.com

Kali Akuno
Reconstruction Party Activist
Former Executive Director, Peoples' Hurricane Relief Fund
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Email: kaliakuno@gmail.com

* * * * *

Initial List of Signatories

[Note: This is a first list of endorsers. A second list is being assembled. Please send in your endorsement of this Open Letter to its three initiators at the email addresses listed above. Please send in your endorsements for the second list, including how you would like to be identified publicly, by May 27, 2008.]

(*) denotes organization/title listed for id. purposes only

Monica Moorehead (*)
Millions for Mumia/International Action Center
New York City, New York

Yuri Kochiyama
Veteran social justice activist, comrade of Malcolm X
Oakland, California

Wilson Riles, Jr.
Former Oakland City Council member
Oakland, California

Jahahara Amen-RA Alkebulan-Ma'at
Former National Co-Chair,
National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N'COBRA)
Oakland, California

Jared Ball
Mixtape Journalist with FreeMix Radio (voxunion.com)
Asst. Professor of Communication Studies at Morgan State University
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Green Party and Reconstruction Party Supporter
Host of Jazz and Justice on WPFW 89.3 FM
Washington, DC

Howard Williamson
Member, Teamsters National Black Caucus,
Past Chairman, Portland, Oregon NAACP Labor and Industry Committee
Portland, Oregon

Pam Africa
Coordinator,
International Concerned Family and Friends
of Mumia Abu Jamal
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Lenore Jean Daniels, Ph.D
Editorial Board Member and Columnist Black Commentator
and Columnist, City Capital Hues
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Netfa Freeman
DC Pan-African and Internationalist Activists
Washington, DC

Sundiata Sadiq
Past President, Ossining NAACP
Life member NAACP
Ossining, New York

Gwendolyn Debrow
Co-Chair, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coaltion
New York City, New York

Betty Davis
Co-founder
New Abolitionist Movement

Eddie Perez
Chicano Community Activist, Educator,
and former Brown Beret
San Diego, California

Leona Heitsch
Bourbon, Missouri

Donald H. Smith, Ph.D. (*)
Founder, Center for Inner City Studies, Chicago
Founder, New York Alliance of Black School Educators

Dr. Nancy J. Dawson
Independent Researcher and Scholar
Russelleville, Kentucky

Wallace Nixon
writer, Black political activist, free-lance English teacher
Mexico City, Mexico

Connie White
Political Analyst &
Organizer of the 2000 African Tribunal
in Compton, California
Long Beach, California

Patricia Hill (*)
Executive Director
African American Police League,
Chicago, Illinois

Rick Tingling-Clemmons
Rick, Ward 7 representative to DC Statehood Green Party, Washington, DC;
National Representative, Black Caucus,
Advisory Neighborhood Commission representative (elected official)
Washington, DC

Michele Tingling-Clemmons
member, DC Statehood Green Party,
Washington, DC

Terence Courtney
Organizer/Activist
Atlanta, Georgia

Rip Mason
Homeless youth counselor and street organizer
Seattle, Washington

Joan Berniard
Co-Founder and Treasurer
Lagniappe Caravan - Common Ground
Seattle, Washington

Ralph Poynter
New Abolitionist Movement
Brooklyn, New York

Akinyele Sadiq
Musician, teacher, activist
Founder-Director of Troublemakers Union (band)
San Francisco, California

Richard Brown
Defendant, San Francisco 8; Elder
San Francisco, California

Dedon Kamathi
Broadcast journalist, activist
Long Beach, California

Mesha Monge-Irizarry
Director, Idriss Stelley Foundation
Education Not Incarceration, SF Chapter
San Francisco, California

Amber Garlan
Secretary of the St. Paul Green Party
Minnesotans for Cynthia McKinney

Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

Spreading the Truth Worldwide: WW Editorial Mentions PANW

EDITORIAL

Spreading the truth worldwide

Published May 28, 2008 7:28 PM
From the editors of Workers World

The imperialist monopoly of the major media outlets has aroused an angry reaction around the world, a search for alternate news and analysis of political events. Many look to the Web as almost their only possibility of finding a viewpoint that favors workers and oppressed peoples and many are finding this viewpoint in Workers World. WW articles have reached readers far beyond the English/Spanish-language print circulation of the weekly newspaper.

We hope this first report of our successes sparks ideas among our readers to spread these stories even further.

Within the U.S., WW articles get picked up by many progressive sites. The Pan African News Wire at http://panafricannews.blogspot.com and Axis of Logic at http://www.axisoflogic.com are two examples of important sites that often post WW articles. All WW articles may be published, without cost, if they are published in full and the source acknowledged.

Bryan Pfeiffer’s coverage of the American Axle strike, Mike Gimbel’s defense of Barry Bonds, our editorials on the presidential election—have been both printed and posted widely, as has Clarence Thomas’ description of the longshore strike on May Day.

Abroad, we are published in English in the print edition of the British-based newspaper, The New Worker (newworker.org) every few weeks. Articles are sometimes used by the progressive Canada-based magazine found on globalresearch.ca.

Our articles that draw the broadest attention are often those that challenge the corporate media’s lies. For example, managing editor Gary Wilson’s article on the China/Tibet crisis was quoted extensively in China Daily, leading to an additional half-million visits to the WW site. Friends have since translated this article into Portuguese, French, Italian and German, while our own Mundo Obrero editors translated it to Spanish.

Abayomi Azikiwe’s anti-imperialist analysis of the struggle in Zimbabwe was published in The Herald of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, this May. Sara Flounders’ article on Bush’s attempt to exploit the disaster in Myanmar was cited in a local Myanmar daily and then picked up all over.

Along with our own Spanish translations on http://www.workers.org , which are reposted on other sites, including http://www.corrienteroja.net , readers can find some of our articles in at least the following languages: Arabic, in the print edition of The Ba’ath, Syria; French on the michelcollon.info site; Portuguese on the Web magazines http://www.odiario.info and others which include the site http://www.resistir.info , with edited versions in Avante, the weekly newspaper of the Portuguese Communist Party (avante.pt); Italian, translated by Curzio Bettio of the group Soccorso Popolare, found on various sites, for example, pane-rose.it; Dutch, in Manifest at ncpn.nl; Russian, with editor-in-chief Deirdre Griswold’s article on worldwide hunger and others posted at a Ukranian workers’ newspaper site, http://www.proletar.org.ua ; Korean and Chinese, occasionally.

Besides WW articles, a recent interview with Workers World Party’s Larry Holmes on the U.S. elections is in the May edition of the newspaper of the Pole of Communist Renaissance in France (PRCF). Teresa Gutierrez’s contribution to a conference in Mexico analyzing the struggle for immigrant rights was translated by the Tlaxcala translating collective and posted on tlaxcala.es and on rebelion.org. WW managing editor Monica Moorehead and anti-death penalty organizer Gloria Rubac collaborated for a major article in a French book on fascism and state repression, published by the PRCF.

Managing editor Leslie Feinberg’s articles and books on the lesbian/gay/bi/trans struggle and history have been translated into all the languages mentioned above, and more.

Versions of talks summarizing the first two sections of Fred Goldstein’s upcoming book, “Colossus with Feet of Clay,” have been translated to French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish and published on various sites and in Marxismo Militante, the magazine of the Bolivian Communist Party.

Goldstein’s summary, presented at the Fourth Marxism Seminar in Havana, Cuba, this May, was translated into Spanish by Mundo Obrero editor Berta Joubert-Ceci and has since been published on the http://www.rebelion.org site , often visited by the politically aware movement in much of Latin America. From RebeliĆ³n it was picked and posted on sites all over the continent, including ARGENPRESS.info and the site of the Communist Refoundation Party of Puerto Rico (http://www.refundacioncomunistapr.com).

If you have information of other sites we may not know of or ideas on how to spread WW articles, within and outside the U.S., write to jcat@workers.org.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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Email: ww@workers.org
Subscribe wwnews-subscribe@workersworld.net
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United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Warns of Higher Food Costs

UN warns about higher food costs

Higher food prices may be here to stay as demand from developing countries and production costs rise, says the UN's Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

It warned that the current spike in global food prices was higher than previous records, partly because bad weather had ruined crops.

Although high prices will ease off, other factors, such as rising biofuel demand, will keep future costs high.

The FAO said speculators were also to blame for volatile commodity markets.

Soaring bills

The FAO's annual Outlook report predicted beef and pork prices might be 20% higher by 2017, wheat could be up to 60% more expensive and the cost of vegetable oils might rise by 80%.

World prices for wheat, maize and oilseed crops doubled between 2005 and 2007, and while the FAO expects these prices to fall, the decline may be slower than after previous spikes.

As well as key factors such as weather, supply and demand and energy costs, speculators are also to blame for making commodities prices more volatile, the FAO says.

It is also concerned about the increasing use of crops for biofuels.

"Biofuels are the largest new source of demand for agriculture and are causing higher prices," said Merritt Cluff, one of the authors of the report.

"We are very worried particularly about biofuel policy. US government incentives for ethanol producers are distorting the market," he added.

Looking ahead, climate change may also affect crop harvests, pushing up prices further.

But the hardest-hit by rising food costs will be the poorest people on the planet, where a large share of income is spent on food, the FAO warned.

"We are hugely concerned about the poorest and we expect the number of undernourished people to rise," said Mr Cluff.

The FAO believes the commodity boom has forced some in the developing world to spend more than half their income on food, particularly those countries that have to import much of their food.

But even the its outlook may be too conservative, as the BBC's International development correspondent David Loyn highlighted, predicting price of black gold was a near impossible task.

"One key assumption made is that crude oil prices will peak at $104 a barrel by 2017. The price is already well above that, and some reputable analysts are now predicting oil will go to $200 a barrel," he said.

And he added that while there may be a drop in food prices in coming years, "there is a sting in the tail.

"Prices will level off at a far higher average level than seen before the crisis erupted," he said. "The long era of cheap food is over."

Rising food bills have triggered protests, riots and panic buying in some developing countries.

Earlier this month, the FAO calculated the amount of money being spent globally on importing food was set to top $1 trillion (£528bn) in 2008, a 26% rise on the previous year.

However, the food crisis could also shift the epicentre of global agriculture from developed to developing countries and the FAO predicts that emerging economies will dominate in the production and consumption of most basic foods in 10 years.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/business/7424375.stm
Published: 2008/05/29 13:30:07 GMT

United States Foreign Policy Architects Rebuild French Connection

U.S. rebuilds French connection

The Pentagon hopes better ties will strengthen NATO and boost the mission in Afghanistan

By Gordon Lubold
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
From the May 29, 2008 edition

Washington - Pentagon insiders call it "the Sarkozy moment" – an opportunity to rebuild a relationship with the French government and military made possible by the election last year of Nicolas Sarkozy as French president.

Mr. Sarkozy's goodwill toward the US has already paid dividends in the form of an additional French combat battalion for Afghanistan. But American defense officials hope an improved relationship will pay off in other ways too, including a stronger NATO alliance, especially since France is expected to take over the next six-month rotation helming the European Union.

The emerging bond between the two countries also represents a change in tone for the Bush administration that, in its remaining months, appears to be more inclined to listen to its allies rather than talk at them, analysts say.

It's in stark contrast to a few years ago when the US and France disagreed vehemently over the invasion of Iraq, capping decades of dissonance over foreign policy. "Thank goodness we're not talking about freedom fries [anymore]," says Jim Townsend, who was principal director for European and NATO policy at the Pentagon and is now vice president at the Atlantic Council in Washington.

Why France, US need each other

Since Sarkozy assumed office a year ago this month he has signaled several times that he wants to start over with the US, wiping the slate clean from the previous government under former French President Jacques Chirac.

He has made it clear he shares the US's hawkish stance toward Iran and announced, this January, the construction of a military base in the United Arab Emirates.

US officials are seeking to capitalize on his support and build a partnership through the countries' militaries that will useful for both.

The US needs another strong ally in Europe to help make the case for its war on terrorism. And France wants to return to NATO's integrated military command structure for the first time in 40 years, as it seeks to strengthen the defense posture of the European Union.

The stakes for the relationship are high with the mission in Afghanistan – and the NATO alliance – in the balance.

And as a self-proclaimed military leader on the continent, France needs to ally with other countries amid shrinking defense budgets – including its own – across Europe.

The country has been at odds with NATO ever since Charles de Gaulle pulled away from the alliance in 1966 over US involvement in Vietnam. More recently, France has pushed for a separate defense confederation within the EU that is seen as a threat to NATO.

With France leading the EU for six months from this July, however, US defense officials are hopeful that both organizations can develop without acrimony.

A gateway to Europe?

Just a year ago, such discussions might not have been possible. But Sarkozy's embrace of everything American provides "fresh prospects for collaboration," as Eric Edelman, undersecretary for Policy at the Pentagon, put it in a speech last month.

"The devil will be in the details," says one senior Pentagon official speaking on background. "But there has been a maturation of the discussion and debate on both sides."

Many analysts hope strengthening Franco-US relations could lead to a improved strategic relationship between US and Europe. "There is an understanding [in the US] that you may actually now need the Europeans for some things, not only for political reasons but for doing some of the work," says Constanze Stelzenmueller, director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund, a policy research group that promotes transatlantic cooperation. "The Europeans have come to the realization that we can't have the Americans to do all the work for us."

Germany figures prominently in discussions. But some analysts say better Franco-US relations won't lead to a change of heart in the German public, which sees their security interests only incidentally served in that mission. "I don't think necessarily the German Bundestag is through France," says Mr. Townsend.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear how far Sarkozy's support on Iran will go if the US considers military options against the country. France's position remains that Iran must suspend enriching uranium before talks can begin.

Other analysts don't believe Sarkozy, whose ratings have tanked in his own country, can pull off significant defense changes. France can't afford to spend more on its military; Sarkozy has just delayed building a second aircraft carrier.

For now, the US is treading unusually softly with its new ally. Last month, Mr. Edelman quoted Sarkozy to US defense officials in making the point that the new and improved US-France relationship does not mean the two will always agree. "Allied does not mean aligned, and I feel entirely free to express our agreements and disagreements forthrightly and candidly – precisely because … France is a friend and ally of the United States," he said.

Find this article at:
http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0529/p03s03-usfp.html

Is Water Becoming 'New Oil'?

Is water becoming ‘the new oil’?

Population, pollution, and climate put the squeeze on potable supplies – and private companies smell a profit. Others ask: Should water be a human right?

By Mark Clayton
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
May 29, 2008 edition

Reporter Mark Clayton discusses the growing market for 'blue gold'.

Reporter Mark Clayton

Public fountains are dry in Barcelona, Spain, a city so parched there’s a €9,000 ($13,000) fine if you’re caught watering your flowers. A tanker ship docked there this month carrying 5 million gallons of precious fresh water – and officials are scrambling to line up more such shipments to slake public thirst.

Barcelona is not alone. Cyprus will ferry water from Greece this summer. Australian cities are buying water from that nation’s farmers and building desalination plants. Thirsty China plans to divert Himalayan water. And 18 million southern Californians are bracing for their first water-rationing in years.

Water, Dow Chemical Chairman Andrew Liveris told the World Economic Forum in February, “is the oil of this century.” Developed nations have taken cheap, abundant fresh water largely for granted. Now global population growth, pollution, and climate change are shaping a new view of water as “blue gold.”

Water’s hot-commodity status has snared the attention of big equipment suppliers like General Electric as well as big private water companies that buy or manage municipal supplies – notably France-based Suez and Aqua America, the largest US-based private water company.

Global water markets, including drinking water distribution, management, waste treatment, and agriculture are a nearly $500 billion market and growing fast, says a 2007 global investment report.

But governments pushing to privatize costly to maintain public water systems are colliding with a global “water is a human right” movement. Because water is essential for human life, its distribution is best left to more publicly accountable government authorities to distribute at prices the poorest can afford, those water warriors say.

“We’re at a transition point where fundamental decisions need to be made by societies about how this basic human need – water – is going to be provided,” says Christopher Kilian, clean-water program director for the Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation. “The profit motive and basic human need [for water] are just inherently in conflict.”

Will “peak water” displace “peak oil” as the central resource question? Some see such a scenario rising.

“What’s different now is that it’s increasingly obvious that we’re running up against limits to new [fresh water] supplies,” says Peter Gleick, a wat­­­er expert and president of the Pacific In­­­sti­­tute for Studies in Development, En­­vi­­­ron­­ment, and Sec­­ur­­ity, a nonpartisan think tank in Oak­land, Calif. “It’s no long­­er cheap and easy to drill another well or dam another river.”

The idea of “peak water” is an imperfect analogy, he says. Unlike oil, water is not used up but only changes forms. The world still has the same 326 quintillion gallons, NASA estimates.

But some 97 percent of it is salty. The world’s re­maining accessi­ble fresh-water supplies are divided among industry (20 percent), agriculture (70 per­­cent), and domestic use (10 percent), according to the United Nations.

Meanwhile, fresh-water consumption worldwide has more than doubled since World War II to nearly 4,000 cubic kilometers annually and set to rise another 25 percent by 2030, says a 2007 report by the Zurich-based Sustainable Asset Management (SAM) group investment firm.

Up to triple that is available for human use, so there should be plenty, the report says. But waste, climate change, and pollution have left clean water supplies running short.

“We have ignored demand for decades, just assuming supplies of water would be there,” Dr. Gleick says. “Now we have to learn to manage water demand and – on top of that – deal with climate change, too.”

Population and economic growth across Asia and the rest of the developing world is a major factor driving fresh-water scarcity. The earth’s human population is predicted to rise from 6 billion to about 9 billion by 2050, the UN reports. Feeding them will mean more irrigation for crops.

Increasing attention is also being paid to the global “virtual water” trade. It appears in food or other products that require water to produce, products that are then exported to another nation. The US may consume even more water – virtual water – by importing goods that require lots of water to make. At the same time, the US exports virtual water through goods it sells abroad.

As scarcity drives up the cost of fresh water, more efficient use of water will play a huge role, experts say, including:

• Superefficient drip irrigation is far more frugal than “flood” irrigation. But water’s low cost in the US provides little incentive to build new irrigation systems.

• Aging, leaking water pipes waste billions of gallons daily. The cost to fix them could be $500 billion over the next 30 years, the federal government estimates.

• Desalination. Dozens of plants are in planning stages or under construction in the US and abroad, reports say.

• Privatization. When private for-profit companies sell at a price based on what it costs to produce water, that higher price curbs water waste and water consumption, economists say.

In the US today, about 33.5 million Americans get their drinking water from privately owned utilities that make up about 16 percent of the nation’s community water systems, according to the National Association of Water Companies, a trade association.

“While water is essential to life, and we believe everyone deserves the right of access to water, that doesn’t mean water is free or should be provided free,” says Peter Cook, executive director of the NAWC. “Water should be priced at the cost to provide it – and subsidized for those who can’t afford it.”

But private companies’ promises of efficient, cost-effective water delivery have not always come true. Bolivia ejected giant engineering firm Bechtel in 2000, unhappy over the spiking cost of water for the city of Cochabamba. Last year Bolivia’s president publicly celebrated the departure of French water company Suez, which had held a 30-year contract to supply La Paz.

In her book, “Blue Covenant,” Maude Barlow – one of the leaders of the fledgling “water justice” movement – sees a dark future if private monopolies control access to fresh water. She sees this happening when, instead of curbing pollution and increasing conservation, governments throw up their hands and sell public water companies to the private sector or contract with private desalination companies.

“Water is a public resource and a human right that should be available to all,” she says. “All these companies are doing is recycling dirty water, selling it back to utilities and us at a huge price. But they haven’t been as successful as they want to be. People are concerned about their drinking water and they’ve met resistance.”

Private-water industry officials say those pushing to make water a “human right” are ideologues struggling to preserve inefficient public water authorities that sell water below the cost to produce it and so cheaply it is wasted – doing little to extend service to the poor.

“There are three basic things in life: food, water, and air,” says Paul Marin, who three years ago led a successful door-to-door campaign to keep the town council of Emmaus, Pa., from selling its local water company. “In this country, we have privatized our food. Now there’s a lot of interest in water on Wall Street…. But I can tell you it’s putting the fox in charge of the henhouse to privatize water. It’s a mistake.”

Water and war: Will scarcity lead to conflict?

Cherrapunjee, a town in eastern India, once held bragging rights as the “wettest place on earth,” and still gets nearly 40 feet of rain a year. Ironically, officials recently brought in Israeli water-management experts to help manage and retain water that today sluices off the area’s deforested landscape so that the area can get by in months when no rain falls.

“Global warming isn’t going to change the amount of water, but some places used to getting it won’t, and others that don’t, will get more,” says Dan Nees, a water-trading analyst with the World Resources Institute. “Water scarcity may be one of the most underappreciated global political and environmental challenges of our time.” Water woes could have an impact on global peace and stability.

In January, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon cited a report by International Alert, a self-described peacebuilding organization based in London. The report identified 46 countries with a combined population of 2.7 billion people where contention over water has created “a high risk of violent conflict” by 2025.

In the developing world – particularly in China, India, and other parts of Asia – rising economic success means a rising demand for clean water and an increased potential for conflict.

China is one of the world’s fastest-growing nations, but its lakes, rivers, and groundwater are badly polluted because of the widespread dumping of industrial wastes. Tibet has huge fresh water reserves.

While news reports have generally cited Tibetans’ concerns over exploitation of their natural resources by China, little has been reported about China’s keen interest in Tibet’s Himalayan water supplies, locked up in rapidly melting glaciers.

“It’s clear that one of the key reasons that China is interested in Tibet is its water,” Dr. Gleick says. “They don’t want to risk any loss of control over these water resources.”

The Times (London) reported in 2006 that China is proceeding with plans for nearly 200 miles of canals to divert water from the Himalayan plateau to China’s parched Yellow River. China’s water plans are a major problem for the Dalai Lama’s government in exile, says a report released this month by Circle of Blue, a branch of the Pacific Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.

Himalayan water is particularly sensitive because it supplies the rivers that bring water to more than half a dozen Asian countries. Plans to divert water could cause intense debate.

“Once this issue of water resources comes up,” wrote Elizabeth Economy, director of Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Affairs, to Circle of Blue researchers in a report earlier this month, “and it seems inevitable at this point that it will – it also raises emerging conflicts with India and Southeast Asia.”

Tibet is not the only water-rich country wary of a water-poor neighbor. Canada, which has immense fresh-water resources, is wary of its water-thirsty superpower neighbor to the south, observers say. With Lake Mead low in the US Southwest, and now Florida and Georgia squabbling over water, the US could certainly use a sip (or gulp) of Canada’s supplies. (Canada has 20 percent of the world’s fresh water.)

But don’t look for a water pipeline from Canada’s northern reaches to the US southwest anytime soon. Water raises national fervor in Canada, and Canadians are reluctant to share their birthright with a United States that has mismanaged – in Canada’s eyes – its own supplies. Indeed, the prospect of losing control of its water under free-trade or other agreements is something Canadians seem to worry about constantly.

A year ago, Canada’s House of Commons voted 134 to 108 in favor of a motion to recommend that its federal government “begin talks with its American and Mexican counterparts to exclude water from the scope of NAFTA.”

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Niger Delta: President Yar'Adua Sore Point in Nigeria

Niger Delta: Yar’Adua’s sore point

Thursday, May 29, 2008
Courtesy of The Tide

Stakeholders and experts in the Niger Delta have frowned at the snail speed at which the regional agitation have been pursued by President Yar’Adua’s administration in the last one year.

Besides, they are of the view that the federal government has not shown any proactive steps in tackling the enormous infrastructural, human and social challenges facing the area as President Yar’Adua promised during his inaugural address on May 29th last year.

A survey interview conducted by The Tide to guage the view of stakeholders over the performance of the present administration to solve the Niger Delta quagmire, indicate general skepticism and distrust by the people of the area on the ability of the federal government, to sincerely address the problems of the area.

In a recent press conference, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) South-South Zone headed by Apostle Geofrey Numbere said the violence and crisis in the region can’t be solved by lip-service.

In a statement made available to newsmen the Christian body said, “OMPADEC, NDDC and Truth Commissions will not solve this intractable problem so long as the majority tribes and the federal government think they are condescending and doing the Niger Delta people a favour by setting up these bodies that they are even starving of funds in the first place.”

It further said, “No genuine Niger Delta person and that includes the church, is happy about this oppressive, humiliating treatment meted out to us for over fifty-six years of oil discovery in our soil.”

Responding to question on whether the federal government in the past one year had shown genuine resolve to solve the impasse, an executive member of CAN in Delta State, Bishop Diamond Emuobor submitted that there have been no results in the past one year in the region.

His words: “Yar’Adua has continued to pay lip service, calling it due process and finding it difficult to release NDDC fund. I think there is a designed plan to suppress the issue of the Niger Delta because of its oil resources.”

Assessing the administrations performance in the past one year over its policies in the region, past president of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) Mr. Bobo Brown described the actions of federal government as lacking focus.

For instance, he opined that instead of adopting a window dressing approach to the quagmire, the government should come up with developmental policies capable of reducing the plight of the people.

He picked holes in the recent plan to use militants to police oil installations and said it is a way of avoiding the core issues affecting the region.

In Brown’s view what should be adopted is pure industrialisation, “what this needs is the multiplication of employment opportunities, we do not want a generation of pipeline guards. In other words, they would be breeding them for political assignments”.

The former NIPR boss’ view seems to contradict the stance of the Minister of State Energy (Petroleum), Mr Odein Ojumogobia (SAN), another Niger Deltan.

Explaining why the federal government is planning to adopt the plan, Ojumogobia said it would foster security and at the same time provide employment for the militants responsible for sabotaging the pipelines.

However, Brown believes the plan would fail since it would not address the root of the militancy, recalling that such policy in the past failed to achieve results, but rather pitted the different groups against one another, in the bid to control their territory.

He was corroborated by the local facilitator of the Commission of Nobel Laureates to the Niger Delta, Mr Tony Uranta who said the policy would only exacerbate the already tense situation in the Niger Delta, stressing that it would amount to dressing criminality in another garb.

For him, until the root cause of the militancy is finally addressed, no amount of policy would yield fruitful results in checking underdevelopment in the region.

Former Deputy Governor of Rivers State and Eze Oha Evo Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Eze Frank Eke however expressed a different view, but noted that the militarisation of the region would not solve the crisis.

His words: “I am against militarisation of the region, they should reduce the militancy presence in the Niger Delta, so that a proper dialogue can be had with the militants.

The same view is being held by the Coordinator of the Niger Delta Non-Violence Movement (NDNVM), Mr Onengiya Erekosima.

The NDNVM Coordinator has at various fora poured flaks on more deployment of soldiers to the region. He argued that military presence had led to the violation of human rights and intimidation of the local populace.

Mr Erekosima said the federal government was not sincere in solving the region’s problems, but rather wants to forcefully suppress the people and milk their resources.

Always outspoken against violence, the NDNVM leader said dialogue is still the best option to check the crisis.

The recent presence of USA warships in the Gulf of Guinea is being viewed by some prominent Niger Deltans as a ploy to increase military presence.

Ankio Briggs of the Ijaw Republican Assembly at the first Niger Delta People’s Asembly held in Port Harcourt was of the opinion that it is a collaboration of the federal government to invite foreign support in terms of securing oil installations.

She said: “AFRICOM and other policies are not going to work, America, Britain owes this region a responsibility to develop the place, because of the wealth they take away.”

On the Gulf of Guinea Energy Security Strategy, Briggs said the government needs to explain the essence of the policy since it was going to affect the people of Niger Delta more than any other part of the country.

President of the Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy, Prof. Pat Utomi argued that the issues of Gulf of Guinea needed to be through adequate human resources development in the region.

Part of the ongoing effort he opined, is to pursue a constitutional amendment that would give a fair share, equity and justice to the people of the area.

The recent indictment by the Secretary to the Federal Government, accusing elders of the region for contributing to the underdevelopment of their area is what worries former Commissioner for Economic Development in old Rivers State, Chief Monday Okonny.

Chief Okonny remarked that Babagana Kingibe’s statement was a blanket indictment of all leaders in the region.

Describing it as a ploy to cause ill feelings among the people of the area, Okonny maintained that the federal government is playing a seek and hide game to the issues of Niger Delta.

He cited the withholding of funds accruable to NDDC as part of the gimmicks being displayed by the government.

Chief Okonny noted that starving the interventionist agency of funds, which it would have used for developmental projects to the tune of over N200 billion betrays government’s lack of sincerity to develop the region.

Another area where stakeholders have continued to pick holes in the last one year is on the numerous workshops being organised by the various federal government agencies.

Most of the stakeholders are displeased that the hyped Niger Delta Peace Forum is yet to be convened.

At various workshops, Special Assistant to the Vice President on the Niger Delta, Nze Akachukwu Nwankwo had promoted the essence of the forum.

He explained that it is part of the strategy being adopted by President Yar’Adua in finding a lasting solution to the Niger Delta crisis.

Part of the plans he buttressed involves engaging the various ethnic groups and finding out their peculiar problems, immediately that is done, then it would be easy to address the challenges once and for all he assured.

At the 1st Niger Delta People’s Assembly held in Port Harcourt, Nze Nwankpo was challenged by youth leaders at the one-day workshop.

Immediately the VP’s SSA rose to give his usual power-point lecture the entire hall went into corruption. For some minutes Nwankpo was forced to stop his lecture. A hail of: “We are tired of talking! We want action!” engulfed the venue.

Senior Research fellow at the Centre for Advanced Social Science (CASS) Port Harcourt, Dr. Sofiri Peterside told The Tide at another workshop organised by the NDDC that the people of the region are tired, following the number of talkshops held towards addressing the crisis.

He described the workshops as ‘jamboree’ and stressed the need to translate all the issues discussed into action plan, “unless the government begin to translate all these plans into actions, it would still not get the problem solved,” Peterside observed.

Calling on immediate action to transform the region, the sociologist explained that unless the lives of the common man is transformed through provision of amenities and employment opportunities, the problem of the Niger Delta would still be a hard nut to crack.

Commenting on how to solve the problem, Professor of Geodesy and member of the Rivers State Economic Advisory Council Prof Dagogo Fubara said the Federal government should revisit the Willinks Report on the minorities in 1957.

The traditional ruler remarked that the solution to the regions, crisis largely rests on the provisions of that report even though it is over 50 years.

In the report, he explained that recommendations were made on how to develop the riverine regions considering their peculiar terrain.

Furthermore, he said the revenue allocation formula must also be revised and stated that the current sharing formula lacked equitability and fairness.

He attributed the problem in the region as a pent-up reaction that had accumulated over the years due to bad governance, pointed out that it would still take a long time to address.

Eze Gbakagbaka of Evo Kingdom, HRM Eze Frank Eke summoned for patience from the people. According to him, “We should stop being so much in a hurry …so far so good, I believe Yar’Adua has good intention at least he has started programmes that would give us peace, but then all can’t happen overnight”.

An African Liberation Day Tribute to Companero Fidel Castro on the Occasion of His Retirement

An African Liberation Day Tribute to Companero Fidel Castro
on the Occasion of his Retirement

By Ron Wilkins, Deputy Chairman – Patrice Lumumba Coalition
Professor, Department of Africana Studies, California State University, Dominguez Hills

“Who has ever shown more solidarity with Africa than Cuba has?” Fidel Castro

May 25th marked African Liberation Day. In the words of brother Elombe Brath, Chairman of Patrice Lumumba Coalition, “African Liberation Day is a symbolic day to mobilize the broad masses of African and all progressive peoples around the issue of totally liberating the African continent and those African people still remaining in colonial bondage or under other oppressive regimes and repressive conditions”.

Hence today is the 45th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity in 1963, by the then independent 32 African states. Coincidentally, it was May 25,1958, exactly 50 years ago, that Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro won a decisive victory after 74 days of intense combat against soldiers of the Batista dictatorship.

That victory signaled a strategic turnaround in the war that would eventually revolutionize Cuba. Later on Cuban Internationalist forces would assist African peoples in ways that no other nation on earth has ever duplicated or surpassed. This is why the dynamic film “Cuba! Africa! Revolution!” is the centerpiece of day’s program and the entire event pays tribute to companero Fidel Castro on the occasion of his retirement. This film and tribute to our distinguished companero Fidel Castro is taking place simultaneously in a number of North American cities.

Fidel Castro “is the first man in the history of Latin America to achieve worldwide stature and fame during his lifetime”. These words were written 39 years ago by New York Times correspondent Herbert Matthews, who first interviewed Fidel in the Sierra Maestra in 1957, two years before the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.

An admitted early opponent of the revolution, Matthews later published a book in 1969 in which he became compelled many times over near the book’s end to acknowledge Fidel as a “hero” and exemplary leader. My own opinion of Fidel, as the Cuban people affectionately refer to him, is that he is perhaps the world’s chief living example of successful socialist revolutionary leadership. My reasons then for writing on Fidel’s leadership qualities, are to be found in my enduring and ever-appreciating admiration for the man and the Cuban people.

Fidel began life, oddly enough, as the sixth of nine children on his father’s 23,00 acre sugar plantation in Oriente Province on August 13, 1926. Fidel grew to reject status and comforts that would have been characteristically “normal” for one born into such a wealthy family. During his youth Fidel read quite extensively and became a serious student.

While a sixteen year old student at Colegio Belen Preparatory School, Fidel’s best subjects were agriculture, Spanish and history. Shortly thereafter at the University of Havana he studied law and graduated in 1945. Fidel even practiced law briefly from 1950 through 1952. His knowledge of Cuban history and law was put to good use later as Fidel undertook what he considered to be his duty to liberate Cuba.

This knowledge was to serve the young resistance movement well during the Moncada trial at Santiago on October 16, 1953. It was there that an eloquent Fidel delivered the historic five-hour defense speech termed “History Will Absolve Me” which firmly established the historical and legal basis for the Cuban Revolution.

Throughout the period of “formal” education in Fidel’s life he was deeply moved by the misery of his countrymen and the corrupt dictatorship that fronted for U.S. interests on the island. Fidel learned early on that Spain had held Cuba for 400 years, eliminated most of the Indigenous people, introduced enslaved Africans to develop the plantation economy, and were eventually displaced themselves in 1899 by U.S. imperialism.

While Fidel read Marx and Lenin he obviously studied Jose Marti much more intensely. Marti was killed at age 42 during Cuba’s second war for independence from Spain in 1895. He is honored in Cuba as the Revolution’s apostle, and his often-repeated words seem to serve as Fidel’s major source of inspiration and guidance. So that today while Cuba’s maximum leader is a Marxist-Leninist and socialist, his conduct and style are in keeping with the Martian tradition.

During the Moncada trial Marti was credited by Fidel with having instigated the attack. Fidel echoed these words of Marti on the concept of duty during the trial: “A true man does not seek the path where advantage lies, but rather, the path where duty lies, and this is the only practical man, whose dream of today will be the law of tomorrow, because he who has looked back on the upheavals of history and has seen civilizations going up in flames, crying out in bloody struggle, throughout the centuries, knows that, without a single exception, the future lies on the side of duty”.

Fidel’s unshakable determination and capacity for enduring hardship and maintaining high morale has been amply demonstrated many times. His bold words at the Moncada trial were a straightforward illustration of this capacity. “When men carry the same ideals in their hearts,” said Fidel, “nothing can keep them isolated, neither walls of prisons nor the sod of cemeteries. For a single memory, a single spirit, a single idea, a single conscience, a single dignity will sustain them all”.

I have read many books by and about Fidel and Cuba, yet seldom have I read Fidel’s words in the “first person singular” context. Fidel is always recalling the contributions of others to the struggle. Edmundo Desnoes, Director of the Instituto del Libro in Havana, referred to this revolutionary principle of selfless dedication when he described Marti and Fidel as “public men who have surrendered themselves to a cause”.

Shortly after the costly and unsuccessful assault against the Moncada Garrison in 1953 Fidel clarified his motives in a letter from the Isle of Pines Prison to Conte Aguero. “I have repeatedly told you, “ said Fidel, “that I do not harbor the slightest personal ambition, nor do my comrades, and that our only aim is to serve Cuba and make worthwhile the sacrifice of our dead companions”. One must properly conclude from the foregoing quotation that Fidel has put the cause before himself.

At the same time Fidel is holding up his conduct for the Cuban people to scrutinize and criticize. Fidel meets and exceeds the fundamental requirements for effective revolutionary leadership, not because of the prison letter’s words, but rather Fidel’s underlying conduct. In this instance and on countless other occasions dating from at least the year of the Moncada attack (1953) until the present, Fidel has demonstrated effective leadership qualities in rare combination and measures. He served as an example to others, and encouraged criticism and self-criticism as a matter of principle.

Fidel is also a man of great personal courage. In 1944 at age eighteen he was voted the best school athlete because of his convincing physical build and skill. While some have argued, few may disagree that it afforded him an advantage over his adversaries. Well before Fidel’s birth Marti had declared that”he who dies, if he dies where he should die, lives”.

Fidel himself has stated, “I prefer to be riddled with bullets, than to live humiliated”. Similarly, the first stanza of the Cuban national anthem reads, “to die for the fatherland is to live”.

In test after test, whether in Batista’s prisons, Cuba’s mountains, or in power, he has faced every major crisis bravely and honorably. Fidel demonstrated the same resolve and courage whether it was the Moncada misfortune, Granma landing, Bay of Pigs invasion, missile crisis or tragic events in Grenada. Even the numerous CIA assassination attempts have not deterred him.

In a related vein Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, once said, “the most important feature of Fidel’s character is that he will not accept defeat”. The author Matthews must have become convinced of this as well when he wrote, “there never was a time when sabotage, subversion or even invasion held any hope of eliminating Fidel Castro. So long as he lives he will never accept defeat for himself or his revolution”.

Fidel, too, has maintained an honest character and has not been corrupted by wealth or luxury. Many of us recall his visit to New York in September, 1960, to address the U.N. when his announcement that he preferred to stay in Harlem’s Theresa Hotel rather than some plush downtown hotel suite, stunned the U.S. government and U.S. intelligence personnel. Until his hospitalization, his various sleeping places in Havana had been furnished with only simple comforts.

According to Matthews, “luxury not only has never meant anything to Fidel, it positively irritates him and makes him uncomfortable”. Matthews further stated that “Fidel’s contempt for money went so far that when he first came to power in 1959 he even grumbled because the banks were charging interest”. “It is this anti-money instinct”, observed Matthews, “that inclines him -- as it did Che Guevara – to feel that the rewards of labor should be moral rather than materialistic”.

Fidel is a natural orator and writer with an overpowering and magnetic personality. Until the decline of his health he customarily delivered speeches of several hours duration without notes to capacity audiences in Havana’s Revolution Square. During a January 1, 1984, speech titled, “Cuba Cannot Export Revolution, Nor Can the United States Prevent It”, given in Santiago to mark the 25th anniversary of the revolution, Fidel reaffirmed that “the people can rest assured of one thing, and that is that we may make mistakes once and many times, but the one thing that they will never be able to say about us is that we embezzled, that we made shady deals, that we betrayed.

We will never be led astray by vanity and ambition, because as our apostle said, “all glory in the world fits in a kernel of corn” and there is no greater satisfaction, non greater prize than doing our duty, as we have been doing up to now, as we will always do”.

With regard to just one aspect of Cuba’s awesome internationalist responsibilities, Fidel went on to say that, “it is incumbent for us to speak for our people. The blood shed by the heroic cooperation personnel who fell in Grenada will never be forgotten. I hope the imperialists also will never forget how those men did not tremble or waver at fighting against the best troops of the United States, even when they were a thousand miles from their homeland and in conditions of absolute inferiority in number and weapons”.

There is a familiar and poetic consistency in Fidel’s words, for one’s historical fulfillment of duty and one’s willingness to admit mistakes are old themes and qualities of leadership dating back at least to Moncada. Also, as Matthews was careful to observe, Fidel has always spoken with “great clarity and fluency”.

Fidel’s conduct as Cuba’s head of state and spokesman for developing nations has been exemplary. One fault, which is not his own , is that a Fidel Castro comes on the scene but once every two or three hundred years and there are not enough Fidels or Cubas to go around. In my judgement, Fidel qualifies as the embodiment of the new man that Ernesto Che Guevara wrote about and became himself. Antonio Maceo, Malcolm X, M’balia Camara, Ida B. Wells, Kwame Ture, Solomon Mahlangu, John Henrik Clarke, Thomas Sankara, and Amilcar Cabral are but a few more examples of the new man and woman.

During my only trip to Cuba I asked a randomly chosen ten year old student at Havana’s Pioneer Palace to respond to the common North American claim that Fidel is a bad man and that Cuban children are not free. I will never forget how she proudly and calmly replied that “such people are sadly mistaken Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro loves all of the children, and is faithful to the principles of Jose Marti”.

By any objective account there should be no doubt as to why Fidel has been dubbed, El Jefe Maximo” or The Maximum Leader by the people of Cuba. It is a well deserved and appropriate title for a man with such an enormous capacity for loving and leading the dispossessed.

In an article titled “Socialism and Man in Cuba”, Che Guevara described the communication between leadership and the masses as “almost intuitive”. Whether it has been a crisis or a routine matter, Fidel seems to have known the thoughts and actions of the Cuban people in advance, and they seem to have known his. So much of Cuba’s progressive transformation and zeal bears the personal stamp of Fidel, that Cuba has become Fidel and Fidel is Cuba.

Clearly power has not corrupted Fidel. Contrary to being selfishly motivated, Fidel’s strict adherence to revolutionary principles has enabled him to lead Cuba responsibly and wisely. As a matter of fact, Ignacio Ramonet, the journalist who has produced the epic work “Fidel Castro: My Life – A Spoken Autobiography”, has stated that “most of his enemies admit that he is one of the very few heads of state who has not taken advantage of his position to enrich himself”.

Cuba’s people love and respect Fidel because through his enduring faith to revolutionary principles, Cuba has been transformed from an economically backward dependency to a showcase for socialist achievement. This intense love and respect for Fidel can be traced back to the “beginnings” or formative stages of the New Cuba, when Fidel personally commanded the revolutionary forces in the Sierra Maestra.

As evidence of Fidel’s “influence” or “example” take note of the following story handed down by veterans of the revolutionary war. “Sometimes in the Sierra Maestra it got so bad,” according to the legend, “that we had to put Fidel on a mule – only because the mule walked slower than he did”.

Despite the praise as Cuba’s most outstanding son, Fidel’s ego does not obstruct his principles, when the man himself vigorously promoted the Cuban law prohibiting statues of any living leader. This prohibition also applies to the naming of Cuban streets, parks, towns, and so on. Notwithstanding Fidel’s obvious popularity, there is no officially sanctioned and systematic distribution of his photographs in Cuba.

By far Fidel’s greatest feat is the creation of the New Cuba, with its outstanding economic and social achievements – which are living testimony to the soundness and popularity of his ideas and partnership with the former Soviet Union and other nations. Some of these are free health care, free housing, infant mortality 5.6 deaths per 1000 live births,

Fidel as a world leader and an uncompromising representative of the dispossessed provides a stunning example of progressive, tough and ingenious leadership. In the words of Ramonet, “whether his detractors like it or not, Fidel Castro has a place in the pantheon of world figures who have struggled most fiercely for social justice and with greatest solidarity come to the aid of the oppressed”.

Before his health declined he would rise at 6:00 a.m., and devote a minimum of three to four hours daily to study. His skills as an effective communicator and brilliant economist have been demonstrated many times over in his published works.

For example, Fidel received more than a dozen rounds of applause and two standing ovations when he addressed the U.N. General Assembly as chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement in October, 1980. I am in complete accord with Ramonet’s observation that “Few men have known the glory of entering the pages of both history and legend while they are still alive. Fidel is one of them. He is the last “sacred giant” of international politics. He belongs to the generation of mythical insurgents…”

Despite false and persistent allegations by U.S. officials that Cuba violates human rights, it is worth noting that at the Geneva-based, U.N. Human Rights Commission 80% of measures in defense of human rights, have been proposed by Cuba. Revolutionary Cuba is a country where there are no homeless people and where begging and unemployment have been eradicated.

In Cuba, education at every level is free, there is no illiteracy and 85% of Cubans enjoy tax-free ownership of their homes. Medical care in Cuba is completely free. Infant mortality in Cuba is 5.6 deaths per 1000 live births and life expectancy is 77.5. The life expectancy of Cuban citizens is now almost 18 years longer than in 1959. Cuba has so much “Medical Capital”, with 40,000 doctors serving Cubans and 30,000 doctors serving abroad, that she has become a medical superpower.

Cuba is the largest educator of doctors in the world. Cuba educates 10 times more doctors than does the United States. Within 10 years Cuba will have 100,000 doctors and may well have educated 100,000 more from other countries. Cuba has a 0.07% aids rate – one of the lowest indexes of Aids in the world. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Cuba offered 1610 doctors, all of which were refused by the Bush Administration.

Under the brilliant leadership of Companero Fidel Castro, Cuba’s solidarity with Africa, will go down in history as perhaps the world’s most concrete and far-reaching manifestation of Black-Brown Unity. From the 1961 weapons shipment to Algerian independence fighters and support to pro-Lumumbist forces in Congo during the same period, until the crushing defeat of fascist South African forces in Angola, Cubans have stood shoulder to shoulder with African patriots.

The great son of Africa, Amilcar Cabral, once noted,”The Cuban combatants are ready to sacrifice their lives to free our countries, and in exchange for that aid to our freedom and the progress of our peoples, the only thing they will take away with them are the combatants that fell in the fight for freedom”. In September 1974 when Guinea-Bissau finally won its independence, about 600 Cuban internationalists including 70 doctors, who had served with the guerrillas since 1966, were there to mark the celebrations.

We salute Fidel’s timely and extraordinary leadership for the crushing defeat handed South African invaders at the dawn of Angola’s independence. Soon thereafter, Fidel was keen to note during a 26th of July, 1976 address commemorating the anniversary of the Moncada attack, the striking similarities between the Angolan and Cuban revolutionary experiences.

During the speech at Pinar del Rio in the presence of Angola’s late president Augustinho Neto, Fidel said, “So, when we, the assailants of the Moncada were in prison on the Isle of Pines, in February, 1955, Neto and his comrades were also imprisoned in the colonialist jails of Angola”. Underscoring the common heritage of the two peoples Fidel asked, “After all, who were our people, our nation” And who but the old African slaves -- or their descendants – fought in great numbers in our wars of independence in 1868 and 1895?, and who knows how many descendants of Angolans were among them!”

Of course, the most massive and successful internationalist military campaign in Cuba’s history, was “Operation Carlota”, in which Cuba transported over 300,000 combatants and almost 50,000 civilians to Angola to confront apartheid South African military forces. In the words of Fidel “Never before had any Third World country acted in support of another nation in a military conflict outside its own geographic region”.

Cuba used their best trained forces and their most advanced military equipment, including Mig 23’s, which left Cuba itself, vulnerable to attack from a bellicose United States. It was South Africa’s defeat at Cuito Cuanavale which radically changed the political landscape of Southern Africa.

The apartheid regime was forced to concede Namibia’s independence, release Nelson Mandela after 27 years of imprisonment and agree to a timetable for black majority rule in South Africa. Ironically, given the hostility of U.S. rulers and their disinformation campaign against Cuba, few U.S. residents know this history.

As we celebrate the defeat of fascist South Africa by Angolan, SWAPO and Cuban forces at Cuito Cuanavale in Southeastern Angola, we must never forget that the United States was South Africa’s ally. That the U.S. has never supported a single liberation movement on the African continent. In point of fact, when our Cuban companero’s confronted racist South Africa in Angola, the U.S. secretly transferred, via Israel, eight atomic bombs to South Africa, for use against Cuban forces.

Every African man and woman, has a responsibility to honor those thousands of Cuban companeros who fought and died with dignity for the freedom of our Motherland. To be worthy of the heroic example of commandante Fidel Castro, Ernesto Che Guevara and those Cuban revolutionaries who have been down for us, we must be prepared to shed our blood, if necessary, in defense of Cuba!

It is our duty to defend the Cuban Revolution unhesitantly and without qualification. We must vigorously oppose ongoing efforts by U.S. Imperialism to maintain the criminal and inhumane blockade against Cuba; finance Florida-based Cuban reactionaries; continue their imprisonment of the ”Cuban Five”; continue to prosecute U.S. residents who travel to Cuba and continue to spread lies about Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution!

Long Live Cuba-Africa Solidarity!
Long Live Companero Fidel Castro!
Victory to the African Revolution!