issue 214 - December 1990
Japanese on the move
While Brazil is languishing in the grip of stagflation, booming Japan has an acute labour shortage. Nevertheless, Tokyo is reluctant to import non-Japanese workers. So the Japanese migrants to Latin America are flocking back to their ancestral homeland.
Brazil has an estimated 1.2 million ethnic Japanese, most of whom came over 80-odd years ago as contract workers on the sugar and coffee plantations. Most have become very successful - a recent survey showed their average monthly income twice as high as white Brazilians and more than treble that of blacks and browns. But the disasters of Brazil's hyperinflation, soaring crime rate and wholesale shortages have meant that the Japanese Consulate in Sao Paulo has been besieged. It is issuing 1,000 passports a month to those who have retained Japanese citizenship and 4,000 visas a month to those who have become Brazilian nationals. All plane seats to Tokyo are fully booked for the next three months.
From Far Eastern Economic Review, Vol 149, No 39 1990
CIA's killing fields
The role played by the CIA and US State Department officials in the 1965-66 bloodbath in Indonesia has just been meticulously documented in stories run in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and other quality US daily newspapers. US officials in Jakarta furnished the names of about 5,000 Communist activists to the Indonesian Army and then checked off the names as the army reported that the individuals had been killed or captured. 'They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands,' Robert Martens, who had spent two years compiling the lists in the IJS Embassy in Jakarta, told the investigating journalist. 'But that's not all bad. You have to strike hard at a decisive moment.
Anything between 250,000 and 500,000 Communists and suspected supporters were murdered following what has been debatably described as 'an abortive coup'.
From The Nation. Vol.251. No.2, 1990
Consumer prices rose a record 86.3 per cent in Third World countries in 1989. Among 22 industrial nations the rise was only 4.5 per cent, up from 3.4 per cent in 1988. Latin American average prices were heavily increased by runaway inflation in two of the region's most important countries: Argentina 3,079 per cent and Brazil 1,287 per cent. That meant Argentinean shoppers were paying roughly 30 times more for the same basket of goods at the end of 1989 than at the beginning of the year.
Harrods fur sales
Harrods, the enduring British symbol of superstore affluence, closed its fur department last April after a slump in sales of 40 per cent over the last three years. In fact fur coat buying across the country is down from $140 million (£80 million) in 1984, to $19 million (£11 million) in the first half of 1989, according to Department of Trade and Industry figures.
From Agscene. No. 100, 1990
Who will Salvadorean bullets kill tomorrow?
The first human rights agreement in Salvadorean history was signed by the Arena government and the Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (the guerrilla forces) on July 26 in Costa Rica, just as two members of the constitutional opposition (the Popular Social Christian Movement) were arrested and tortured by the Salvadorean army. Two days later soldiers fired mortars into a village recently renamed after a murdered Jesuit priest. And on July 30 the disfigured body of 24 year-old Jorge Cruz was discovered by the side of the road.
The general human rights standards outlined in the agreement were meant for immediate implementation. However provisions for proper arrest and the prohibition of torture already exist in the Salvadorean Constitution. This hasn't stopped the armed forces so far. In the first six months of this year alone, according to the Salvadorean Human Rights Commission, the army killed 561 civilians.
From The Nation, Vol. 251, No.6
Many of the pharmaceuticals sent to Armenia after the 1988 earthquake were useless, and, in some cases, dangerous. International relief supplied more than 5000 tonnes of drugs and consumable medical supplies, syringes, needles and other equipment. Medecins sans Frontieres and the Armenian Ministry of Health made complete inventories of this aid. They had to destroy 20 per cent of the drugs. Eleven per cent were useless and eight per cent had expiry dates before their arrival. Among the useless items were many types of vitamin preparations, nasal sprays and drugs for the treatment of tropical diseases such as malaria and bilharzia. Health workers in the disaster area could use only 30 per cent of the drugs.
From The Lancet. 9 June 1990
German Nestlé boycott
A supporter of the boycott, Markus Braum, was arrested recently for glueing stickers on about 60 Nestlé products in a supermarket in Wetzlar, Germany. The stickers said 'Nestlé kills babies' and gave Braum's full address. Marcus wanted to call attention to the continued unethical marketing practices of the Swiss babyfood giant. This generated media attention, with television turning up at the court. The judge's ruling was a $40 fine, based on the modesty of the damage caused and the 'noble intentions' of the defendant.
From Consumer Currents,No. 128
Asmara, the capital of Eritrea (province of Ethiopia, or separate state - depending on your viewpoint) has been besieged, cut off from overland supplies for more than 200 days. Food, fuel and water is running out. The garrison of 120,000 soldiers exercises arbitrary powers, with the civilians ultimately being held as hostages. The city contains about 280,000 civilians, plus refugees. The other towns and villages in the enclave contain a further 800,000. Africa Watch calls on the Ethiopian government to observe its obligations under international humanitarian law and appeals to both sides for a truce to allow food trucks to bring supplies in to the civilian population, and for refugees to leave the beleaguered enclave.
From News from Africa Watch. Sept. 1990
'America does not seek conflict, nor does it seek to chart the destiny of other nations.'
'King Hussein of Jordan went to one of our public schools and then to Sandhurst.
Why does he apparently not know right from wrong?'
Letter in the Evening Standard
'The meek may inherit the earth, but not its mineral rights.'
John Paul Getty