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Briefly... in the news

new internationalist
issue 175 - September 1987



Will the real killers please stand up
'Let me tell you how Rosario (see photo) was killed. It's not very nice. The killers put a plastic bag over her head and pulled it tight around her neck. It was the Guatemalan military that killed her. It seems they killed her three year old son first. She had to watch that.

'Rosario sought her kidnapped husband - one of 38,000 people disappeared in Guatemala. She dared to speak out. More than 50,000 civilians, mostly Indian peasants, have been killed by the army since 1980 alone. In 1986 political killings averaged 60 a month under the new civilian government.

'This war in Central America is largely invisible in the US. The Reagan Administration would like to keep it that way. The US has resumed military aid to Guatemala.'

From Network in Solidarity with the people of Guatemala, 930 F Street N. W. Room 515. Washington DC 20004, USA.

Newspaper cutting
Killings In

By Stephen Kinzer

GUATEMALA, April 18 1985 -Ten months ago, six people founded a human rights organization called the Mutual Support Group for the Appearance Alive of Our Relatives. Today, only two of the six remain. Two have been killed, one is in exile and another has quit the group out of fear.

At the end of March, one leader of the group, Hector Gómez Calixto, was abducted. When his body appeared, his tongue had been cut out.

Soon afterward, Rosario Godoy Alfaro de Cuevas, 24, was found dead in a damaged automobile together with her brother and her three year old son. The police said the deaths were accidental, but this week many Guatemalans and diplomats said they doubted that explanation.


Figures count
All figures below relate to the US:

· While the average life expectancy after diagnosis of a white person with AIDS is two years, that of a person of colour is 19 weeks.

· While the leading cause of death among women age 25-29 in New York City in 1983 was a drugs overdose, three years later in 1986 it was AIDS.

· While condom sales amounted to 200 million in 1980, by 1986 they were 325 million.

· While recorded cases of anti-gay discrimination in New York City before 1983 were 20, between November 1983 and October 1985 they grew to 474.

· While there were 5,000 reported cases of rectal gonorrhoea (a leading indicator of dangerous sex practices) in the San Francisco gay community in 1980, by 1986 there were 380.

And just for the record, the estimated costs of AIDS in the US by 1991 will be between 800 and 1,600 million dollars.

From Mother Jones. Vol XII. No. IV. 1987


End of insurgency
The end of the communist insurgency movement in Malaysia appears near. Begun about the same time as Vietnamese resistance to French colonialism, there is a very different outcome to this guerilla war which has sputtered on for 40 years. In March and April 643 guerillas laid down their arms at their Thai border sanctuaries deep in the forest. These mass defections leave just 850 fighters from a different, Maoist, faction to continue the struggle. But combined operations by the Malaysian and Thai armies are making their existence difficult.

Traditionally tolerant Thai society appears ready to absorb the defectors, mainly Chinese Malaysians, who are fearful of revenge if they return to staunchly Islamic peninsular Malaysia And the Thai military are openly appealing to journalists not to use 'surrender' to describe the defections, believing it will insult their honour and jeopardize efforts to persuade the remaining combatants to lay down their weapons.

From Far Eastern Economic Review, Vol. 136, No.22, 1987


Reagan's reign of error
There he goes again: Ronald Reagan's reign of error - A pointed collection of Reagan's lies, gaffes and misstatements, by Mark Green and Gail MacColl was first published in 1983. Green has now compiled a substantially updated list for Mother Jones magazine, including the latest gaffes on Irangate. The President has had to repudiate nearly everything he originally said in public about the Iranian arms sale and, according to MotherJones, apart from the First Lady 'everyone knows our 40th President is a chronic dissembler--- But given the Niagara of evidence of previous deceptions by Reagan, why did it take so long for the public and press to catch on?'

Suggestions for the lack of sharpness in reporting which would have scraped the teflon off Reagan sooner included.

· Reporters exposing Reagan would have risked exclusion from White House Press conferences and jeopardized their jobs.

· Some media, with a false sense of objectivity, were unwilling to chronicle Reagan's mistakes because this might appear partisan.

· Few in the media wanted to believe that the leader of 'the free world' was either a chronic liar or an amiable dunce.

From Mother Jones. Vol. XII. No. V. 1987


Year of peace
The United Nations designated 1986 to be the Year of Peace. Unfortunately it was honoured more in the breach than the observance. By the end of the year 36 wars and armed conflicts were still being fought. The biggest, the Iran-Iraq war, has involved both the US and the USSR supplying weapons to both sides. Other findings from that excellent reference work, The SIPRI Yearbook 1987 include:

· The 1986 wars involved over five million fighters from 41 nations, while between three and five million have been killed during the course of these conflicts.

· An estimated 60 per cent of countries increased arms spending during the year while 40 per cent reduced theirs.

· Actual military spending by the US declined in real terms for the first time in ten years.

· Whilst both superpowers agreed in principle to reduce and/or abolish entire categories of nuclear weapons, both introduced at least one new strategic nuclear system in 1986: the MX missile and the B1B bomber for the US and the SS-N-23 missile for the USSR

One small appendix: 1986 saw Britain begin building its first Vanguard Class ballistic missile submarine, four of which will have Trident missiles carrying up to 512 Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicled warheads. If that was the Year of Peace ...

Information from SIPRI Yearbook 1987. World Armaments and Disarmament. Oxford University Press. 1987


Turkish prisons
One of the main Turkish daily newspapers earlier this year ran a story on a former prisoner, Aydin Caner, who was released in September 1986. Since his release, Caner has tried to expose conditions in various Turkish prisons; particularly the regular use of torture and ill-treatment. He lost a foot there himself because of brutality and medical neglect.

As soon as a prisoner arrives, according to Caner, 'in most prisons you are given a good beating with a club. They do this, they say, to teach you to obey without question.' He knew several prisoners personally who were beaten to death. Warders in many prisons were named by him as torturers.

The Government claims that prison inspectors have ensured an end to such ill-treatment. But during nine years in seven different jails, Caner never saw one inspector. Friends told him that the Government inspector always gave notice of such a visit to the prison authorities and never spoke to prisoners in private.

Turkey has applied to become a member of the European Economic Community.

From the Turkey Newsletter. Issue 72-73. 1987

'I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our governments to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.'

Thomas Jefferson, 1816

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New Internationalist issue 175 magazine cover This article is from the September 1987 issue of New Internationalist.
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