Fish for thought

There was a coup in Mauritania last week. Most Americans have never heard of this country situated on the west coast of Africa,between Morocco and Senegal. Since I had spent several weeks there in April, I feel motivated to tell some of the truths that are not reported by the press. Yes the military took over the country and arrested the only democractic president,Abdallahi, since 1960. But from conversations I had with people I met during my two weeks there in April, the president was ineffective, corruption and payoffs boundless. There were rumours then that the military was threatening to take over. In late December four French tourists had been murdered outside of the capital; the international press calling it a terroist attack. While I was there, the police killed three of the men in a shootout somewhere near the capital. I was on the other side of town and missed the excitement.The word on the street that day was that the killers were bandits,not terrorists. My guess was by calling them terrorists, the government could ask for more military aid from the United States. The United States prescence in Mauritania,an Islamic republic, involves giving millions of dollars to the military to fight the big Tterrorism; as well as over two hundred peace corp volunteers(the eyes and ears of America) doing penance in remote villages all over the country. A contingent of American Marines was seen in one of the towns on the border with Morocco. So I think it is appropriate that more Americans know about where and how their tax dollars are being spent.

The government of President Abdullahi,overthrown by the military, lead by General Abdelaziz, was extremely corrupt; officials driving around in new SUVs, and building themselves mansions in the city with money skimmed from the millions of dollars foreign governments and corporations had paid to develop and export Mauritanias natural resources..

This so-called democratic government was selling fishing rights to China, Russia and the European Union, receiving $700 million dollars for a six year lease. Chinese, Russian and European vessels,using trawling and dredging machines, were decimating the fish population and leaving little for the Mauritanian fishermen; this government,typical in Africa, was enriching itself at the expense of its people. Mauritania has a very rough coast and most of their fisherman used old wooden fishing boats. Since foreign boats have taken so many of the fish from the deep waters far off the coast,the Mauritanians have to risk their lives to venture further out to find fish. Some have told stories of fisherman drowning in rough seas or being run over by the large foreign vessels.The women in most coastal African countries are also dependent on the fishing industry. Many women ,with too many children,have been abandoned by their men, supporting themselves and their children selling fish they buy from the fisherman. So while the foreign fishing fleets and the Mauritanian officials make millions, the average citizen is not only is losing his livlihood but lives in squalor,without running water or toilets. Sometimes coups are not as bad as the press reports,especially in Africa.

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