Latest Developments, March 6

In the latest news and analysis…

Presidential death
The University of London’s Oscar Guardiola-Rivera argues that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose death was announced Tuesday, made his country more inclusive during his 14 years in power:

“Chávez’s Social Missions, providing healthcare and literacy to formerly excluded people while changing their life and political outlook, have proven the extent of such a transformative view. It could be compared to the levelling spirit of a kind of new New Deal combined with a model of social change based on popular and communal organisation.
The facts speak for themselves: the percentage of households in poverty fell from 55% in 1995 to 26.4% in 2009. When Chávez was sworn into office unemployment was 15%, in June 2009 it was 7.8%. Compare that to current unemployment figures in Europe.”

Meddling allegations
The Associated Press reports that a British diplomat has been accused of “shadowy, suspicious and rather animated involvement” in Kenya’s presidential election by supporters of Uhuru Kenyatta who is currently leading as ballot counting continues:

“Kenyatta’s party also asked the high commissioner, Christian Turner, to explain what it called ‘the sudden upsurge of British military personnel’ in Kenya. British troops attend a six-week training course near Mount Kenya before deploying to Afghanistan. A new battle group arrived the week before Kenyans voted.
Britain’s Foreign Office said claims of British interference ‘are entirely false and misleading.’ It said the British soldiers in Kenya are part of a regular training program planned nine months ago ‘completely unrelated to the Kenyan elections.’ ”

New gun market
Reuters reports that the UN Security Council has voted for a British-drafted partial suspension of the longtime arms embargo on Somalia:

“The Security Council resolution would allow sales of such weapons as automatic assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, but leaves in place a ban on surface-to-air missiles, large-caliber guns, howitzers, cannons and mortars as well as anti-tank guided weapons, mines and night vision weapon sights.

Human rights group Amnesty International called one the U.N. Security Council on Monday not to lift arms embargo on Somalia, describing the idea as premature and warning that it could “expose Somali civilians to even greater risk and worsen the humanitarian situation.”

Violent mine
The Daily News reports that two more people have died in clashes at a Tanzanian mine owned by Canadian giant Barrick Gold:

“The [North Mara Gold Mine] has been experiencing frequent invasions carried out by mostly young men targeting gold sand. The intruders have often been clashing with police officers guarding the mine 24 hours. In 2011 five civilians were shot dead after hundreds of people invaded the mine and clashed with anti-riot police.
The mine is also guarded by private security guards. The Canadian miner is currently setting up a multimillion wall fence at Gokona pit in a bid to boost safety and security in one of the country’s largest gold mine located at Nyamongo area.”

Toxic fog
Etiame reports that Togolese fishermen have said they encountered a suffocating cloud at sea, near a coastal area where the World Health Organization noted reports of a “strange” outbreak of coughing and chest pains last month:

“ ‘We were on the high sea that day. It was as if someone had launched tear gas. It stung our nostrils. It was probably toxic discharge from a ship. If it had been pollution from a neighbouring country, it would have dissipated by that point,’ said a visibly perturbed Koffa.” (Translated from the French.)

Protecting assets
The Globe and Mail reports that Canada has negotiated “so-called foreign investment promotion and protection agreements” with Cameroon and Zambia, bringing to seven the number of African countries that have made such deals with Ottawa:

“The FIPAs are meant to give businesses greater confidence to invest at a time when resource nationalism has become one of the leading concerns of the global mining industry. The trend became especially pronounced in recent years as emerging nation’s sought to renegotiate terms of mining investments in the wake of booming prices for metals like gold and copper, trading several times where they were a few years ago even.

Canada has 24 FIPAs in force around the world. It has also concluded the agreements with Benin, Madagascar, Mali, Senegal and Tanzania and is pursuing FIPAs with Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Tunisia.”

Killer deal
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières has said the Trans-Pacific Partnership, currently in its 16th round of negotiations in Singapore, could become “the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines in developing countries”:

“The negotiations are being conducted in secret, but leaked drafts of the agreement include aggressive intellectual property (IP) rules that would restrict access to affordable, lifesaving medicines for millions of people.
Proposed by U.S. negotiators, the IP rules enhance patent and data protections for pharmaceutical companies, dismantle public health safeguards enshrined in international law, and obstruct price-lowering generic competition for medicines.”

Nothing to see here
Reuters reports that Western observers will not be welcome in Zimbabwe during this year’s constitutional and presidential votes, purportedly due to the punitive policies their countries have imposed:

“Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, from Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that Harare would bar U.S. and European Union observers because of sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle for alleged human rights abuses.
‘To be an observer, you have to be objective and once you impose sanctions on one party, your objectivity goes up in smoke,’ Mumbengegwi, who is responsible for inviting and accrediting foreign observers, was quoted as saying.
‘I do not see why they need to be invited when they have never invited us to monitor theirs.’ ”

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