Latest Developments, March 18

In today’s latest developments…

Executive punishment
Reuters reports a Brazilian court has decided 17 executives of Chevron and Transocean cannot leave the country as charges loom due to last year’s major oil spill.
“A federal judge in Rio de Janeiro state granted a request from prosecutors who are pressing for charges against both firms, a spokesman for prosecutor Eduardo Oliveira said in a phone interview. George Buck, who heads Chevron’s Brazil unit, and the other 16 executives must turn in their passports to the police within 24 hours, the spokesman said.”

Big-time retraction
Marketplace’s Rob Schmitz has revealed that a critic of labour conditions in Apple’s supply chain has not been entirely truthful – revelations that prompted NPR’s This American Life to retract a high-profile episode that aired last year – but he cautions that the corporate giant should not be let off the hook as a result.
“What makes this a little complicated is that the things [Mike] Daisey lied about seeing are things that have actually happened in China: Workers making Apple products have been poisoned by Hexane. Apple’s own audits show the company has caught underage workers at a handful of its suppliers. These things are rare, but together, they form an easy-to-understand narrative about Apple.”

Uncooperative US
Al Jazeera reports that Afghan officials, including the country’s president, have alleged the US military did not cooperate with an investigation into a recent massacre of civilians purportedly committed by a rogue American soldier.
“[Lieutenant General Sher Mohammed Karimi] said that despite repeated requests from high-level Afghan officials, including the minister of defence, to meet with the accused soldier, they were not granted access by US generals.
Karimi said he wanted to ask the soldier whether he acted alone, or was part of a team, as has repeatedly been claimed by tribal elders.”

Falklands/Malvinas
Al Jazeera also reports that the Union of South American Nations has stated its opposition to current British activities around the “disputed Falkland Islands.”
“ ‘The military presence of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland in the Islas Malvinas … goes against the region’s
policy to seek a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute, and [the region] reiterates its rejection of that presence,’ the foreign ministers of the UNASUR grouping of South American nations said in a joint statement on Saturday.
‘It also rejects unilateral British activities in the disputed zone, which include, among other things, the exploration and exploitation of renewable and non-renewable Argentine natural resources as well as military exercises.’ ”

Embargo busting
Foreign Policy reports that a UN panel is investigating whether France and Qatar violated an international embargo by supplying arms to Libyan rebels last year.
“The eight-member panel has made no ruling on whether the allies of the rebel Libyan government violated sanctions — and it remains unclear whether the panel will in the future — given that France and other allies in the Security Council can exercise considerable authority over the panel.
Still, the report sheds new light on how the anti-Qaddafi opposition was able to transform a collection of militias and tribal leaders into a fighting force capable of defeating the government’s superior military forces. And it includes acknowledgments by France and Qatar that they supplied military advisers to the insurgents to help prevent government attacks on civilians.”

Controversial permits
Global Witness says a British company is planning to proceed with oil exploration “in Africa’s oldest National Park and UNESCO World Heritage site” situated in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“ ‘Undertaking oil exploration or exploitation on the ground in a UNESCO World Heritage site constitutes a breach of the Convention on World Heritage, as well as DRC’s own laws and constitution’, said Colin Robertson of Global Witness. ‘SOCO’s plans are a real threat to the protection of Virunga’s wildlife and to people who depend on Lake Edward. The region is also marked by ethnic tensions and the presence of armed militia groups is still a threat to stability. These factors could be exacerbated if oil exploration is carried out without consulting local people.’ ”

Murder in Oaxaca
The Latin American Herald Tribune reports that, for the second time this year, an opponent of a Canadian-owned mine in Mexico’s Oaxaca state has been shot dead.
“The [Oaxaca Collective in Defense of the Land] said the Cuzcatlan mining firm, a unit of Canada’s Fortuna Silver Mines, and the mayor of the town of San Jose del Progreso, Alberto Mauro Sanchez, are directly responsible for Vasquez’s death as well as the slaying of another activist, Bernardo Mendez, who was killed in January.

That same organization also ‘repeatedly’ complained that ‘the mining firm was financing armed groups in the community with the backing’ of the mayor, the statement added.”

Operation dismantle
A Philippines congressman is calling for a congressional investigation into alleged rights abuses around a Canadian-owned mine in the country’s volatile south.
“[Congressman Antonio Tinio] said that TVIRD has been conducting ‘clearing operations’ in Sitio Balabag since November 2011, making use of paramilitaries supplied by the Philippine Army. ‘According to internal documents of TVIRD that have been brought to our attention, the mining firm has been implementing a security plan known as OPLAN Bongkag (Operation Plan ‘Dismantle’) since the last quarter of 2011,’ said Tinio. ‘The objectives are to secure the area for mining operations in the face of strong resistance from the small-scale miners, many of whom have been working in the area since the 1980s.’ He added that the plan, approved by TVIRD’s Vice-President for Philippine Operations and Chief Operating Officer Yulo E. Perez, called for the deployment of regular troops, along with at least 220 paramilitaries from the 1st Infantry Divison of the Philippine Army, all of them acting under the direction of TVIRD’s Security Manager, retired Army Colonel Valentino V. Edang.”