China: Gov’t issues new anti-poverty measures

China’s State Council (cabinet) last week outlined measures to ease the growing gap between rich and poor, and urged local authorities to improve their systems of welfare and disaster relief.

“The meeting also discussed ways to improve the medical system in the countryside, support poverty-stricken areas and help support those laid off from state factories,” Xinhua news agency said.

The State Council also pledged to strengthen support for poor farmers, including training in production methods and possible small loans, as well as more job training to laid-off workers, the state television network reported.

Mexico: Victims’ families compensated

The government of the northern state of Chihuahua has given keys to 30 new homes to the mothers of women killed in a series of sexually motivated killings, El Universal said Oct. 2. Another 17 families are to receive keys from the new state government after it takes office Oct. 3.

The homes are part of a compensation program assembled by the Chihuahua Women’s Institute in the border city of Cuidad Juarez, where authorities say 340 women have been killed — about 90 of whom were sexually assaulted — over the past decade.

The compensation program also includes psychological, medical and legal support, as well as a monthly stipend of $160.

Authorities have arrested over a dozen men in connection with the slayings, but only one has been tried and convicted. Some women’s rights activists have called the homes an attempt to divert attention from the lack of results in the criminal investigations.

The Netherlands: Huge demonstrations oppose ‘austerity’

Some 200,000 protesters marched in Amsterdam Oct. 2 to protest cuts to welfare and health coverage, as well as a freeze on civil service salaries and the minimum wage, BBC News reported.

“They’re taking away our social security, which we’re very proud of in the Netherlands,” trade union negotiator Sjerp Holterman told the Associated Press.

A poll by the national radio found 60 percent of the Dutch public opposed to the cuts, and unions are accusing the government of abandoning the country’s tradition of consensus-based labor relations.

Union federations have been boycotting talks with government and employers, and have demonstrated in parts of the country where strikes are rare. Last month 50,000 protesters brought the Port of Rotterdam to a halt for a day, and a 24-hour strike halted public transit in Amsterdam last week.

United Arab Emirates: Strike protests disaster

Some 7,000 workers returned to their jobs in Dubai Oct. 2 after striking for two days following an accident that killed eight workers and injured as many as 40 others. The accident occurred Sept. 27 when a huge steel mesh wall at Dubai Airport collapsed, burying workers under the rubble.

Most of the victims were thought to be immigrant workers from India and Pakistan, working for a UAE-British consortium, Al-Naboodah Laing Rourke.

The workers demanded monetary compensation for families of the dead, as well as details about the accident and dismissal of a company official they said had consistently harassed them.

Equatorial Guinea: U.S. official linked to plotters

High-ranking U.S. military officials have been linked to accused plotters of a coup earlier this year that sought to overthrow oil-rich Equatorial Guinea’s president Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the London Guardian reported.

The Guardian said Theresa Whelan, a Pentagon official responsible for African affairs, met twice in Washington with London-based businessman Greg Wales before last February’s coup attempt. Wales is an alleged coup organizer, though he has denied the accusation. Washington has denied Nguema’s charges.

Shortly after he was allegedly paid $8,000 by Simon Mann, now jailed in Zimbabwe on coup-related charges, Wales participated in a Washington conference of the International Peace Operations Association, made up of U.S. “private military companies.” There, Whelan told the group the Pentagon was eager to see them operate in Africa, saying they were cheaper and spared the U.S. the need to be visible on the ground. Wales met with Whelan again shortly before the failed coup.

The Bush administration has displayed significant interest in the oil-rich region around Equatorial Guinea, which is situated on the Gulf of Guinea.

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

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