Monday, December 21, 2009

UNICEF stats on child poverty: Not one of them is Cuban

Left I on the News blog, run by Eli Stephens, put up this useful and revealing post on UNICEF’s new report on children and global poverty.

Not one of them is Cuban

UNICEF reports today that 146 million underweight children in the developing world, and that not one of them is Cuban. Indeed, UNICEF reports that Cuba is the only country in all of Latin America and the Caribbean that has eliminated severe child malnutrition.

As a reminder, there are other categories in which Cuba can claim the same distinction:

900 thousand children die every month because of poverty: not one of them is Cuban.

200 million children in the world sleep on the streets today. None of them is Cuban.

250 million children under 13 have to work in order to survive. None of them is Cuban.

More than one million children are forced into prostitution and tens of thousands have been victims of human organ trafficking. None of them is Cuban.

25 thousand children in the world die every day of measles, malaria, diphtheria, pneumonia and malnutrition. None of them is Cuban.

Cuba isn't perfect, or heaven on earth. It is a society which puts people's needs first, and it shows.

By the way, to compare Cuba to another "tropical island," consider today's news from Hawaii:

Public schools in Hawaii are closed most Fridays, rats scurry across bananas in an uninspected market, and there may not be enough money to run a Congressional election.

Nepalese Maoists seize Kathmandu, declare autonomous district government

The Nepalese Maoists, a mass force based on the impoverished majority, played a key role in the movement that overthrew the centuries old feudal monarchy and ushered in a republic. In elections to the constituent assembly, the Maoists won the most seats, securing around 1 million votes more than their nearest rival and around twice the seats. However, the old royal army refused to bey the new government and pro-elite parties conspired to bring the Maoist-led government down in May.

The strength of the Maoists since then appears to have grown, both in political support (with the new government seen as undemocratic and a puppet of the elite, India and the US) but organisationally. The Maoists have been building from the ground up, holding discussions throughout the country. In a show of strength, they shut down much of Kathmandu with mass demonstrations and blockades in November. The government, with little popular legitimacy, was blockaded and had to meet in secret.

(for info on this round of mass protests, read these two Green Left Weekly articles: Nepal: New uprising builds
and Nepal: The struggle for civil supremacy)

Now, they have begun launching "autonomous zones" — be areas with parallel governments and structures based on the oppressed, especially oppressed nationalities.

Maoist-led land seizures by peasants against large landholders have increased, Mike Ely reports.

But most dramatically, in recent days, the Maoists have launched mass demonstrations to seize the capital Kathmandu in order to declare it, too, an autonomous zone — for the Newa people, a national minority. they have declared a parallel government for the district. They intend to repeat this process in other areas in a massive and growing challenge to the central government's authority — which looks increasingly weak.

Mike Ely provides some useful analysis of what is happened here.

Check out this impressive short video of the Maoist night-time torch-lit march through Kathmandu.

The following report appeared in

Red alert: Maoists seize Kathmandu

KATHMANDU: Maoists on Wednesday announced the seizure of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu declaring it an autonomous region, after storming into heavily guarded Durbar Square, in a development that could trigger a new political confrontation.Waving red flags, 5000 militant cadres forced their way into the Durbar Square city centre where their chief Prachanda declared Kathmandu valley as the Newa Autonomous State. The Maoists, who have already announced formation of parallel governments in nine districts and paid little heed to warnings by the Nepali Congress, to desist from such tactics as it may lead to “biggest political and social confrontation”.

Though the Maoist takeover was more of a symbolic nature, their choice of the capital city sent shock-waves in the ruling CPN-UML-led 22-party alliance. Prachanda lit a traditional lamp to declare Kathmandu as Newa Autonomous State by flying a banner that read “Newa Autonomous State” as hundreds of balloons were let off.

A gun salute was also given and the city declared an autonomous state amidst performance of traditional music.

“Our move is not intended to disrupt the peace process or block the constitution making task,” Prachanda proclaimed adding it was to “make people aware about federalism and strengthen the republican system”. The Maoist supremo claimed that “regressive forces were hatching a conspiracy against the republican system and trying to reverse the change”.

Other Maoist leader who spoke on the occasion defended their move to declare various areas as autonomous regions rejected the claim that it would derail the peace process and lead to disintegration of the nation. The party is planning to declare altogether 13 autonomous states in the country by December 18.