The Guardian 21 September, 2005

Global briefs

CARIBBEAN: The 13 Caribbean countries joining Venezuela’s PetroCaribe energy cooperation initiative could save up to US$50 million a year and see their foreign trade grow as a result of oil-for-goods exchanges. Under the project, Venezuela will supply 185,700 barrels of oil to the region per day, invest in expanding existing refineries so Venezuelan heavy crude oil can be treated, invest in increased storage capacities and use three cargo tankers on three main routes — Jamaica/Cuba/Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and the eastern Caribbean rim. Caribbean countries will pay 60 percent of their oil bills. The remaining 40 percent will be deferred for later payment, and may be paid in goods and services. Discussions started last year on PetroCaribe. The project was formalised in June and finally ratified last week in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

NEPAL: Over 600 pro-democracy activists — including the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), Madhav Kumar Nepal — were arrested on September 13 in the capital city, Kathmandu, as thousands of protesters shouting pro-democracy slogans marched toward the king’s palace. Riot police baton charged demonstrators, spraying them with water from fire engines and tear-gassing them before dragging them off to police vans. Since the king assumed absolute power last February, pro-democracy forces, including the seven political parties that held over 90 percent of the seats in Parliament, have maintained a drumbeat of protests, with many participants injured and/or arrested.

AFRICA: A report published on September 7 by Amnesty International charges that a consortium of western oil companies headed by ExxonMobil has made legal pacts with African governments that could override human rights of local populations. The pacts relate to a pipeline from the Doba oilfields in Chad to the Atlantic terminal at Kribi, Cameroon. Amnesty says the agreements could require Chad and Cameroon to put the oil companies’ interests ahead of the rights of people living near the oilfields or pipeline. It said poor farmers in the Doba region have already been displaced without compensation, while other villagers have been denied access to safe water. Amnesty also noted that the two countries have poor human rights records. Cameroon and Chad have each agreed to clauses saying no one can interfere with the construction, operation or maintenance of the pipeline.

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