International notes

Japan: Protest deployment of U.S. aircraft carrier

Peace organizations in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, are expressing their strong opposition to the Pentagon’s plans to deploy a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to Yokosuka Port, Japan Press Weekly said. Commander Thomas Boulton Fargo, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, told the U.S. Congress of the plan on March 31.

Nagasawa Takeo, secretary of the Kanagawa Prefectural Council against A&H Bombs (Kanagawa Gensuikyo), said, “Deployment of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will pave the way to bring nuclear weapons into Japan, and we must prevent such a vessel from entering our port.”

Speaking in Yokosuka City April 2, Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo called for a popular struggle to bar the carrier. He said it is “intolerable” for the U.S. and Japan to permanently station the carrier at Yokosuka, at the mouth of Tokyo Bay.

Yokosuka Port has been the only homeport outside the U.S. for U.S. aircraft carriers since 1973. However, Japanese citizens’ strong opposition has prevented nuclear-powered aircraft carriers from being deployed there.





Greece: Workers risk lives for Olympics

The head of the Greek construction workers union told the BBC last week that construction workers are risking their lives as they try to complete preparations for this summer’s Olympic Games. Georgios Filiousis said 13 workers involved in Olympic projects have already died, and he fears more will die as the deadline draws closer. He compared this to one death prior to the Sydney games, and blamed it on companies cutting costs.

The union says average working hours on the projects now range from seven to 12 hours – up from the usual five to seven – and builders are working around the clock on key sites.

Only 24 of 38 Olympic sites have been completed so far, and the main stadium is not expected to be finished until July 20. Last week construction workers paralyzed Athens as they held a one-day strike to demand an 8 percent pay raise.





Liberia: Disarmament will start again

The United Nations announced April 10 that the disarmament program in Liberia will restart on April 15, after a four-month delay to complete adequate preparations. The UN Integrated Regional Information Networks said Gyude Bryant, chair of Liberia’s transitional government, had set April 15 as the target date for restarting the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration program for up to 50,000 former combatants in the country’s civil war. The plan was confirmed by Bryant and Jacques Klein, head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), at a joint press conference April 10.

However, Klein noted that the three armed factions have not yet provided a full list of their combatants, the locations where they are based and the weapons in their possession – a precondition for UNMIL to resume the disarmament process. Klein urged them to do so promptly.

The commander of the UN force said adequate peacekeeping troops are on hand, and a campaign to tell former fighters how the program would work has been completed successfully.





Canada: Quebec okays same-sex marriage

Quebec has now become the third Canadian province to allow marriage between same-sex couples. Quebec’s Court of Appeal ruled March 19 that gay couples should be permitted to marry immediately. The court was considering an appeal of a 2002 Quebec Superior Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. The Appeals Court rejected the appeal and upheld the ruling. In addition to Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario allow same-sex marriages.

“This is a great day for Quebec and a great day for Canada,” said Bob Gallagher, national coordinator for Canadians for Equal Marriage. “Now same-sex couples can marry in provinces that represent over 70 percent of Canada’s population.”





Haiti: Protest anti-worker abuses

As death-squad gangs linked to Haitian dictatorial regimes ravaged the country after President Aristide’s forced removal, 34 workers at the Grupo M garment factory in the Codevi “free trade zone” on the Haitian-Dominican border were fired March 1 for joining the Ouanaminthe Codevi Workers’ Union. The next day, as co-workers prepared to act in support of the union, they were attacked by gang members, who said Grupo M management had called them in. After several workers were handcuffed and others beaten, the workforce was made to return to work.

Following protests and expressions of international solidarity, the company promised to rehire the 34 workers. But to date, Grupo M has not fulfilled its pledge.

United Students against Sweatshops is urging communications to Fernando Capellan, fcapellan@grupom.com.do, demanding that Grupo M rehire the workers and stop its abusive practices in the Codevi “free trade zone” and other worksites.





Brazil: Rainforest destruction levels off

The Brazilian government said last week it kept the rate of rainforest destruction from increasing in 2003, though over 9,000 square miles were still deforested by ranchers, farmers and loggers. Environment Minister Marina da Silva said April 7 in Rio de Janeiro that the government had succeeded in breaking the rhythm of increase in the deforestation.

In March the government announced a $140 million program to reduce the destruction. Environmentalists, while praising the government’s policy, expressed concern that the measure would not be enough to provide a real solution.

The rainforest covers 60 percent of the country, and it is estimated that as much as one-fifth of that area has been destroyed through development, agriculture and logging.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (mbechtel@pww.org). Tim Pelzer contributed to this week’s notes.