International notes

Iraq: Doctors warn Iraq war would be ‘catastrophe’

A report just released by the British physicians’ organization Medact says an invasion of Iraq could lead to a “human catastrophe” with casualties as high as a quarter million in the first three months.

The report, “Collateral Damage: The Health and Environmental Costs of War on Iraq,” was prepared by Medact, the British affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, with participation of IPPNW’s U.S. affiliate, Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Most of the estimated casualties would be Iraqi civilians caught in the bombing, said IPPNW spokesperson Bob Schaeffer. The study also looks at the impact of an invasion on the public health system and on such necessities as agriculture, water and energy.

“We’re saying that there’ll be a very large short-term impact and an even more profound longer-term impact,” Schaeffer said. “The report uses the word ‘human catastrophe,’ even if it does not escalate to the level of poison gas, civil war or nuclear weapons.”

The report can be found at: www.medact.org.



Colombia: Army detains farm workers’ union leaders

The Colombian agricultural workers’ union, Fensuagro, is vigorously protesting the detention of union leaders, including Telberto Gonzales and Victor Manuel Jimenez Fruto, by the army, and death threats against several other union leaders.

Fensuagro said that on Oct. 30 six soldiers “arrived in a red truck and, without an arrest warrant, and without saying anything,” grabbed Gonzales violently and forced him into the truck. He has since been held incommunicado at battalion headquarters.

“Taking into account that the places in which the comrades were detained have been declared rehabilitation and consolidation zones by the government in the context of its state of emergency, we are shown once again the clear and open intention to annihilate social and popular organizations, the agricultural workers’ union said. “We are extremely worried about the things that have been happening recently to our members.”

The union is calling on the international community to send protests to the Colombian government.



India: Rally kicks off anti-war campaign

“Warmonger Bush: Back off Iraq!” was the resounding message sent by an impressive rally Nov. 14 in the capital city, New Delhi. The rally, organized by the Committee against War on Iraq, launched a nationwide campaign opposing the Bush administration’s threat of war against Iraq.

Tens of thousands marched through the streets to a rally where they heard speakers, including top leaders of the Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Janata Dal, call for a nationwide campaign over the next two months to urge the Vajpayee government to oppose the U.S. war policy.



Germany: Public workers threaten strike

Frank Bsirske, head of the public workers’ union Verdi, warned this week that his union would conduct warning strikes before the middle of December unless progress is made in wage negotiations. A first round of negotiations ended last week with no progress.

“If the employers do not move, then everything points to a storm,” he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sontagszeitung in an interview.

The 2.8 million member union, Germany’s largest, is calling for a 3 percent wage increase for 2003, while employers are demanding a wage freeze. “If things stay that way, then there will be a strong answer from the workers,” Bsirske said.



Argentina: Workers take over bankrupt factories

As their country’s economic crisis deepens, Argentina’s workers have taken over dozens of failing enterprises, turning them into successful cooperatives. An estimated 100 factories and other workplaces have been taken over nationwide – 17 of them in the capital city, Buenos Aires – in the last two years. In many cases the worker-managed enterprises are doing better than they were under previous owners.

In this nation of 37 million, where over half the population lives below the poverty line and over one-third of the workforce is unemployed or underemployed, workers have won government acquiescence and strong public support.

The development is beginning to worry influential economic interests, and political support for expropriations may be waning, warned Beatriz Baltroc, a Buenos Aires city legislator who is a leading advocate of the process.