Business World Update December 2013

Spanish government unveils plans to all-but ban abortion

Spain’s Popular Party looks set reverse the liberal reforms to abortion laws passed by the previous Socialist government in 2010. The Catholic-dominated party will outlaw abortion except in cases of rape or risk to the mother’s life. The move has provoked fury from the opposition and from pro-choice activists, who highlight the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland as an example of the consequences of regressive anti-abortion laws. Nevertheless, the ‘pro-life’ bill will pass with a comfortable majority, despite there being little evidence of public demand for it.


The Thai opposition bolsters anti-government protests

The Democrat Party will boycott the snap election called by the Pheu Thai government (led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra), opting instead to summon hundreds of thousands of protesters on the grounds that the democratic process will be subverted. The Democrat Party and their allies are insisting on the installation of a ‘People’s Assembly’ to ease divisions- though the government has warned that it would be a front for a clique of Democrat who’d take over the country in yet another coup. Whatever one thinks of the Thai government, they are right in saying that the country is at risk of “civil war”.


South Africa: NUMSA trade union ends ANC support

Growing dissatisfaction from the left with the performance of the ANC government reached a new high last week as the 330,000 metalworkers’ union disaffiliated from the party, resolving to build a new socialist party. The leader of NUMSA said “the working class cannot any longer see the ANC… as its class allies in any meaningful sense”. The move marks a huge setback for the ANC as its vote base is squeezed by the poor who feel betrayed by its increasingly temperate, neo-liberal stance, and the middle class who are pulling the party to the centre. ANC leaders are concerned that their dominant party status (they have polled above 60% in every post-Apartheid election) could be further eroded.


South Sudan plunges into conflict and violence

An American evacuation plane has been shot at, over 500 people have been killed and rebels have taken over swathes of territory as South Sudan’s elected government struggles to recover from an attempted coup by the Vice President. Western nationals are rushing to be evacuated from the conflict-torn nation whilst foreign governments are still able to help. The conflict has formed an ethnic dimension, as the Dinka and Nuer communities fight for control over strategic assets such as the oil fields in the north of the country. Barack Obama has warned that “recent fighting threatens to plunge South Sudan back into the dark days of its past”.


‘Fascists’ accused of sabotaging Venezuelan power grid

Hugo Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, who shares the late Venezuelan President’s brand of ‘Bolivarian Socialism’, has alleged that right wing opponents deliberately caused the power cuts that blighted most of the country recently. Maduro claims to have evidence to support his claim that opposition supporters severed a key power cable in order to damage the government ahead of important local elections. However, it would be wise to treat such claims with scepticism: “right wing fascists” have been blamed for sporadic power cuts for years, yet international observers have yet to be convinced.


North Korea threatens South by fax

North Korea has used its only remaining communications with its rival to the South, a woefully out of date fax line, to warn that its military could attack South Korea “mercilessly” and “without notice”, apparently in response to a demonstration against the authoritarian regime in Seoul. It seems that North Korea treats any failure by other nations to live up to its exacting standards of oppression to be an act of hostility against it. South Korea may be well advised to file this fax in the same place that the US files warnings that Kim Jong Un’s army is about to bomb it out of existence. However, the South’s army has replied, using the fax line, to threaten “resolute punishment” to any act of warfare.


American Studies Association votes to boycott Israeli universities

A small but influential society of US academics, the American Studies Association, has resolved to cease all co-operation with their colleagues in Israel, as part of the economic and cultural boycott that is taking place due to international outrage at Israel’s treatment of their Palestinian neighbours. One critic of the move protested: “this is lumping into one big group all academic endeavours in Israel to say it’s politically tainted”. Regardless of the justification for the policy, commentators are agreed that it will bolster the boycott movement in the US, where it has hitherto made little impact.


Libya pushed offline by militant protesters

Libyan Telecoms and Technology (LTT), the monopoly Internet Service Provider, was hijacked by a force of armed rebels who cut-off web access for the entire country for most of last Saturday. Their call for the resignation of the Libyan Prime Minister failed as a back-up service resumed despite their continued occupation of the LTT building. The occupation is the latest in a long line of similar blockades with oil and other resources motivated by hostility to the post-Gaddafi democratic government.


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