Turkey: Court to rule on majority party

Turkey’s Constitutional Court, the nation’s top judicial body, announced March 31 its unanimous decision to consider a case brought by Turkey’s chief prosecutor, alleging that the Islamic orientation of the ruling Justice and Development Party violates the secular basis of Turkey’s constitution.

The party, which has one month to prepare a defense, would be banned as were two predecessor parties from which the present party evolved.

The Associated Press report cited speculation that banning a party holding 330 of 550 parliamentary seats could lead to legislative inaction, jeopardizing potential reforms necessary for Turkey’s entry into the European Union and crucial to the nation’s financial stability.

Romania: Exploited workers rebel

Eying cheap labor, Renault joined other European automakers, and Ford, in opening factories in Eastern Europe. On March 24, however, 10,500 workers demanding a 65 percent raise walked out at a factory in Pitesti once operated by the state owned Dacia Company.

Workers claim they are “struggling for a salary like they get in France” and, according to rebelion.org, want to “overcome divisions among workers.” Production last year was up 17 percent, but, declared one striker, “We are no French colony.”

The monthly Renault wage in France averages 2,200 Euros, but in Romania, 285 Euros. Inflation is rampant there.

Renault threatened to shift production of its low-cost “Logan” model to Morocco, India or Russia.

Guinea Bissau: Women’s rights at stake

Having campaigned for the Guinea Bissau parliament to consider a ban on female genital mutilation (FGM), human rights activist and legislator Fernando Gomes declared, “The question of human rights is not negotiable.”

Reluctant legislators postponed deliberations, and on March 28, after four days of debate, nothing was settled.

Some 135 million women, from 29 African countries and three Middle Eastern countries live with FGM, carried out in unsanitary fashion with crude instruments.

Portuguese sociologist Catarina Moreira told IPS that FGM “occurs in societies where poverty, violence and discrimination target females, [who are] not valued as full-fledged citizens, but for their reproductive capacity.” Per capita income in Guinea Bissau is $180 per year.

Ecuador: Constitution as instrument of change

Ecuador’s Constituent Assembly, following the lead of leftist President Rafael Correa, aims to set the nation on a new course.

On April 1 an Assembly majority banned foreign military bases from Ecuador, reinforcing Correa’s declarations that Washington’s lease on the Manta airbase would not be renewed.

The next day, the Assembly created the constitutional means to safeguard a $5 billion fund derived from petroleum sales and aimed at long term needs, among them debt repayment, education, health care, oil exploration and construction of refineries and hydroelectric facilities. Administrative provisions for protecting the fund were outlined, Prensa Latina said.

Vietnam: Nike workers strike

Some 20,000 Vietnamese workers, mostly women, settled a 48 hour strike at a Taiwanese-owned Nike factory April 2 by accepting a 10 percent pay increase averaging $59 per month — half their original demand.

Responding to a 19 percent hike in consumer prices in one year, the Vietnamese government upped the minimum wage paid by foreign companies by 13 percent in January. A Nike spokesperson emphasized that prior to the strike employees had been paid more than the minimum wage.

With 50 contract factories in Vietnam, U.S.-owned Nike produces 75 million pairs of shoes annually. Observers cited by AFP identify burgeoning inflation as the prime stimulus for strikes breaking out at individual factories.

Cuba: Cuban Five haunt U.S. court

Plans announced at a March 31 federal court hearing to jail U.S. weapons analyst Gregg Bergersen invite comparisons with U.S. treatment of the Cuban Five. Bergersen pled guilty to conspiring to send defense information to China. He promised testimony against associates who communicated with the Chinese government. He will serve less than ten years in jail, according to the BBC.

For allegedly conspiring to commit espionage against private groups involved in anti-Cuban terrorist activities, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labinino and Gerardo Hernandez received life sentences. U.S. defense information was never at risk.

They received additional sentences exceeding ten years on lesser charges, as did Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez. (Hernandez received an additional life sentence for supposedly conspiring to murder.)

Victimizing individuals through the courts as proxies for the Cuban revolution signifies jeopardy to the legal rights of all.

Saudi Arabia: Guest workers protest

Some 130 Bangladeshi workers have been camped out on the sidewalk near their consulate since late March, to protest abuses by their employer, a construction firm in Medina.

“We are stranded in the street, eating from charity and using one of two available toilets in the consulate’s premises,” one of the protesters, Rabiul Alam, told Arab News April 7.

The workers said they have not been paid for 16 months, and have not been given time off from work as required by Saudi labor law.

Alam also said the company did not renew the workers’ residency permits, making them liable to be deported without collecting their wages and preventing them from working elsewhere in the country.

The Bangladeshi consulate has complained to the Saudi Labor Department, but at press time had received no response. The consulate said workers had made similar complaints last year.

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit@roadrunner.com)

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