[Marxism] Mauritania: "The Mark of Shady Interests"

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 28 23:27:18 MST 2005

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like this from the Cuban media on a regular basis. Part
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November 26, 2005

A CubaNews translation. 
Edited by Walter Lippmann


The Mark of Shady Interests


Widespread misery, absence of infrastructure and a total lack of
resources best describe the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Its
impoverished population still awaits the changes promised by the
Military Junta which overthrew President Ahmed Uld Taya on August 3.

The participants in the coup raised the banner of democracy and
freedom to justify their action and their aim – according to their
communiqué - of “putting an end to the totalitarian ways of the
deposed regime that has inflicted great suffering upon the
Mauritanian people over the last years”.

But the traditional sensitivity of this Maghreb nation to the
shock-waves generated by the conflict in Western Sahara, the
frictions caused by Taya’s alignment with the US and Israel, and
Mauritania’s imminent access to the club of oil producing countries
cast doubts on the genuine motivations of the coup leaders.

Military uprisings have been a constant factor in the history of
Mauritania since the proclamation of its independence from France in
1960. Colonel Taya himself had come to power by means of a coup in
1984, when he ousted President Mohamed Juna Uld Haidalla.

Taya, who foiled two attempted coups, was deposed while visiting
Saudi Arabia. In the last 21 years he won three consecutive
elections, which his adversaries always described as fraudulent.
Mauritania’s so-called democratic renovation was introduced into a
highly volatile scenario, rife with ethnic tensions that pit the
Arab-Berber population against the Black minority and the
contradictions of a society that has rejected the life-style of
nomadic shepherds and merchants, to favor their resettlement in urban

This situation is combined with the perilous factor of endemic
poverty which hits the great majority of Mauritania’s’ population of
2,893,000, living in a vast territory of 1,030,700 square kilometres,
with an infant mortality of 96.7%, where life expectancy is as low as
52.5 years, illiteracy reaches 48.2 % in men and 68.1% in women and
the yearly income per capita is barely $400.

To make matters worse, this year Mauritania has been severely hit by
locust plagues and drought which threaten some 600,000 people with
death by starvation.

The truth is that the opposition and the majority of the population
initially felt relieved by Taya’s ousting, though many disliked the
fact that the coup leaders brought back numerous members of the
former regime to form their government and announced that elections
are to take place in two years time.


Two immediate reactions after Taya’s overthrow drew our attention.
The first came from former Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar, and
the second from American President George W. Bush. They both
condemned the coup and called for a “peaceful return” of the deposed

The previous government shut down the Iraqi Embassy in 1999 and
strengthened military cooperation with the United States within the
framework of the “war against terrorism”, a pretext for the arrest
this year of dozens of people, among them an Al-Jazeera journalist.
According to Rebelion web page, these people “were kept incommunicado
in an unknown place and in danger of being tortured”.

The recent discovery of rich oil deposits in this former French
colony coincides with an increase of political and economic American
interests in the sub-region, where France strives to regain its
erstwhile influence.

There, the American multinational Halliburton is present and harbors
concerns about competition from the Australian Woodside and Fusion
Oil, the French Total, the British Premier, the Spanish Repsol and
the Mauritanian Roc Oil.

They are all excited by findings suggesting possible reserves of more
than one billion barrels of oil and 30 billion cubic meters of gas.

Researcher Nicolas Alkin, a graduate of the British Warwick
University, pointed out the existence of several Islamic trends, some
of which are outlawed by the United States, which has invested around
500 million dollars in the area to “fight terrorism”.

The Junta will also have to confront the reigning corruption, the
demands of supporters of the Black population and the different
political parties, as well as the presence of oil and all its
implications in a nation where hunger has a very strong presence.

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