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new internationalist
issue 219 - May 1991



Moscow’s problems, Havana’s nightmares
As a result of the cutbacks in the former flood of Soviet aid, Cuba is facing its most severe challenge since the US blockade of the island began in 1962. Beginning this year, 1991, all Soviet transactions with Cuba will be reckoned at world prices and paid for in hard currencies. As Castro put it, ‘We have to be prepared to work with less and less … no-one knows what our trade relationship with the USSR will be; it is almost impossible to know how much oil and raw materials we will get in 1991 and under what conditions.’

As part of the austerity plan teams of draft animals have begun to replace tractors in the province of Granma; while orders are out to use tallow rather than lamp oil for lighting in the countryside.

To save fuel in buses, the Government is importing 200,000 bicycles. Several publications have closed down because of lack of paper, and thousands of state employees are being laid off – though with the promise of state unemployment assistance.

The last overseas journalist who reported scarcities was expelled from the country. He wrote that he could not find chicken, beef, flour or milk for sale on the island.

From El Tiempo of Bogota, reported in World Press Review Vol 38, No 1



Guns for Jews
A cynical deal consisting of Israel selling arms to Ethiopia in exchange for Ethiopian Jews has come to light despite official denials. About 250 of such Jews, known as Falashas, have finally arrived in Israel after months of being stranded in appalling conditions in Addis Ababa as they waited to emigrate. It is believed the delay was caused by the Ethiopian Government’s refusal to allow the Falasha out of the country until Israel increased its arms exports. Tel Aviv had previously supplied such weapons as fragmentation bombs which the Ethiopian army used in its Eritrean campaign. The separatist movements, on the other hand, have allegedly been supplied by Arab states.

From The Independent, 20.11.90

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Sanctions busters
Detailed research findings on the main petroleum suppliers to South Africa for 1989, have just been released. The main findings include:

. The shipping companies responsible for transporting the fuel are confined to an increasingly limited group. More than 45 per cent of the fuel was carried by 17 tankers belonging to one shipping company, World-Wide Shipping of Hong Kong. A number of shipping companies registered in Greece/UK accounted for a further 35 per cent of the fuel imported.

. Countries whose companies and flags are linked with deliveries are Hong Kong, Liberia, United Kingdom, Greece and Cyprus. If the figure for Hong Kong – a country where the UK holds sovereignty – is included with the latter then the UK is linked to 34 of the 39 deliveries. That is 88 per cent of the fuel deliveries which were identified.

. At least 37 of the 39 tankers sailing to South Africa come from the Middle East. The United Arab Emirates accounted for half the fuel, while six tankers bringing 15 per cent of the fuel sailed from Egypt.

As a postscript: the resolution on the oil embargo against South Africa was carried overwhelmingly at the United Nations on 19 December, 1990. The only countries voting against were the UK and the US.

From Newsletter on the Oil Embargo against South Africa, No.22 1991



Bright red
For some Japanese the end-of- year parties are a nightmare. The founder of the Non-Drinkers Association, Ken Yoshida, is one. ‘Even a couple of glasses of beer make me go bright red and unable to sit or stand up straight,’ says Yoshida. Yet Japanese men face great pressure to drink socially. Now medical evidence shows that as many as half of all Japanese people may, for genetic reasons, be deficient in the particular enzymes which rid the body of alcohol once it has been consumed.




Bangkok’s bank holidays
Thai students are expected to receive a four-day holiday later this year, thanks to the World Bank and IMF. To ensure that the 15,000 or so very important visitors for the World Bank/IMF meeting in October 1991 do not spend all their time stuck in Bangkok’s notorious traffic jams, schools will be closed. The intention is to keep students and their buses off the roads. For the only routes to the conference hall from the major hotels are along roads jammed with bumper-to-bumper traffic from early morning until well into the night.

From Far Eastern Economic Review, Vol 151 No 5 1991



Top of the pops
British Aerospace has retained its position at the top of the British export league. The Financial Times list of the top 100 exporters ranks BAe (also the UK’s largest military exporter) above other corporate giants such as British Petroleum and Rank Xerox.

However French arms exports dropped by nearly 90 per cent in 1990, with the biggest decline in sales to the Middle East and North Africa.

From Campaign Against the Arms Trade Newsletter, No 106



Expanding hole
Chemicals that are eating a hole in the earth’s protective ozone layer are still being released into the air at record levels, despite international agreements to phase out their use. This is the conclusion of F Sherwood Rowland, University of California scientist, who discovered the link between chlorofluorocarbons and the ozone layer 17 years ago. Latest tests show emission of CFCs reached a record high in 1990 and were still growing.

With no fall-off in CFCs, the worst is yet to come for the expanding hole in the ozone shield. The hole through which the harmful ultraviolet radiation rays of the sun can pour is expected to continue to expand until 2010 – even if controls which are now in place are effective.

From Consumer Currents, No. 132, 1991


‘When you take an Aboriginal from their land, you take them from the spirit that is giving
them life. You end up with shells of human beings, living in other peoples' countries.’

Pat Dodson, Central Lands Council, Australia.


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