Guam: Indigenous people protest military build-up

The Colonized Chamorro Coalition of eight organizations upholding indigenous people’s rights on Guam is protesting the Pentagon’s plans to boost the U.S. military presence on the island. The coalition warns that this would limit the Chamorro people’s self-determination and would make the island a target of terrorist attacks. The military is already the island’s major industry, besides tourism.

Government and business leaders are encouraging the build-up, which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reportedly favors as part of creating “lily pads” for rapid deployment of forces. Work is already under way to deepen the harbor, build new facilities for B-1 bombers, and greatly build up the military’s infrastructure. A third nuclear powered attack submarine is due to arrive at the island later this year.

South Africa: Vote shows growing unity

South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki said last week that the 70 percent majority won by the African National Congress in the April 14 elections provides “a critical foundation for the building of a people’s contract to better the lives of all South Africans.”

Mbeki said current trends show that in addition to the ANC’s traditional strength among Black, working-class and poorer South Africans, the governing party is winning significant sectors of the middle strata including in white, Colored and Indian communities, “reflecting increasing unity of purpose among South Africans.”

In seven of the country’s nine provinces the ANC won an overwhelming majority, while in two its plurality increased significantly, making the ANC the leading political force among rural African voters in Kwazulu-Natal, and among Colored and Indian voters there and in the Western Cape.

In congratulating the ANC, the South African Communist Party pointed out that the landslide was based on “the energies, aspirations, commitment and organization of millions of workers and poor,” who are the “bedrock” of support for the ANC and its alliance.

“We strongly endorse President Mbeki’s observation that in the coming months and years, special attention must be given to local level governance, to local economic development, to building sustainable communities,” the SACP said.

Haiti: Death squads tighten their grip

Despite statements by U.S. officials and the interim Haitian government about the urgency of disarmament, international human rights groups say armed gangs linked to the FRAPH death squads that terrorized the country before the U.S. forcibly removed President Aristide are strengthening their hold.

“Due to the state of impunity the number of criminal activities … committed by armed gangs is increasing. Aristide’s supporters feel threatened,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said April 8.

“Amnesty International is particularly concerned for the safety of judges, prosecutors, criminal investigators, victims, witnesses and human rights defenders involved in prosecutions relating to past human rights abuses,” AI said after its delegation returned from a 15-day mission earlier this month.

Calling the current disarmament campaign “extremely limited,“ the British-based Haiti Support Group said it has not touched the armed irregular forces, but has “focused on pro-Aristide shantytowns in the capital.”

Nepal: Protests for democracy continue

Since the beginning of April, the Nepalese people’s protests against the autocratic rule of King Gyanendra have escalated to become daily demonstrations by hundreds of thousands around the country. Last October the king dismissed the elected prime minister and took executive power. A wide variety of organizations, including those representing youth, students and disabled people, are participating in the protests, initiated by the country’s major political parties including the Communist Party of Nepal (UML).

The government has responded with vicious attacks that have injured hundreds of demonstrators, and with mass arrests that have swept up organization leaders, former government ministers and parliamentarians. On April 11, government forces even detained 150 disabled demonstrators. Some detainees, including political leaders and former parliamentarians, have gone on a hunger strike to demand their release and the dismissal of the unconstitutional government.

Venezuela: Threats grow on border

Colombian opposition leaders are warning that the extreme right Uribe regime in Colombia plans to step up attacks on neighboring Venezuela. In a declaration sent to the ANNCOL news agency last week, leaders of four opposition organizations said the warm reception the Colombian government gave Cuban-born far-right U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart is part of a campaign to provoke a war between the two countries.

Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican close to the Bush administration, favors a military intervention to overthrow the populist government of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez. Venezuela is a major supplier of oil to the U.S.

Last year paramilitaries supported by the Colombian army crossed into Venezuelan territory several times, assassinating peasant leaders and supporters of Chavez’ government, and even confronting the Venezuelan army.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (mbechtel@pww.org).

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