WORLD NOTES: Dec. 15

South Africa: Mine owners’ profits ‘dripping in blood,’ say strikers

Over 270,000 members of South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers engaged in a one-day strike Dec. 4 that closed down the world’s largest gold and platinum extraction industry.

At issue was mine safety. From January through August, 226 miners died at work, up from 199 during 2006. In October, after 3,200 miners were trapped 1 mile underground for 30 hours due to a damaged elevator, the government ordered safety audits.

In Johannesburg, marchers carried signs declaring, “Safety is a human right” and “Organize or die.” They also carried banners saying the mine owners’ profits were “dripping in blood.” Strikers demanded that negligent mine bosses be prosecuted.

The U.K. Guardian quoted Zwelinzima Vavi, head of the Congress of South African Trade Unions: “It can’t be right that, in an attempt to get food on the table, we sacrifice our lives.” Miners earn the equivalent of $500 a month.

Mines in South Africa are the nation’s leading industrial source of foreign exchange.



Japan: Activists rally against war, U.S. bases

Over 1,000 activists gathered in Naha City, Okinawa, for a four-day peace conference beginning Nov. 22. Local residents joined conference participants in protesting a new U.S. military base by forming a human chain around the nearby construction site.

In a keynote address, Peace Committee leader Chisaka Jun denounced proposed new “anti-terrorism” legislation, revisions of Japan’s pacifist constitution, and a U.S. troop realignment in Japan. Japanese Communist Party official Ichida Tadayoshi called for a return of Japanese troops from Iraq.

The Japan Press Service reported that activists opposing U.S. bases in Vicenza, Italy, and Manta, Ecuador, attended the conference, which has become an annual event.

On Nov. 28, the upper house of Japan’s Diet revoked authorization granted in 2003 for Japanese troop deployment in Iraq. Four days later, over 13,000 people demonstrated in Zama City, Japan, against establishment there of the U.S. Army 1st Corps headquarters.



Iraq: Child prisoners on the rise

Reassuring a French press agency reporter that many of the Iraqi children who have been imprisoned by the U.S. occupiers receive educational programming, U.S. Colonel Malcolm McMullen remarked, “Many of them come from broken homes with no education.”

Gen. Michael Nevin reported, “In January we had around 100 juveniles. Now we have around 950.” The rise, he pointed out, coincides with U.S. troop increases since February.

Children, mostly 15-17 years of age, some as young as 10, make up almost a quarter of the 4,000 prisoners held at Camp Cropper in Baghdad. Another 21,000 detainees, all adults, are held at Camp Bucca near Basra.

Speaking Dec. 3, Nevin said the children are mostly illiterate and are “perceived as a security threat to Iraq or coalition forces [often] for picking up a gun and firefighting.”



Argentina: ‘Operation Condor’ on trial

Argentine Supreme Court Judge Sergio Torres ordered trials reopened for 17 ex-military officers charged with assassinations and other crimes committed against opponents of right-wing dictatorships in South America during the 1970s.

Although the full extent of Operation Condor’s activity is unknown, it is believed that thousands of people were killed or “disappeared” for opposing dictatorial regimes in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Four years ago, a lower court provisionally released all those charged with such crimes except ex-President Jorge Videla, who was kept under house arrest for stealing children of the disappeared. Outgoing President Néstor Kirchner had exerted pressure on Judge Torres to reopen the charges.



Russia: Cheating mars voting

This was not an election but rather an act of “nationwide coercion,” said Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, characterizing the Russian parliamentary elections of Dec. 2. Zyuganov described abuses that included the intimidation of observers, voting by unidentified voters, student votes submitted en masse by teachers, and votes cast by “dead souls,” people who are known to be dead.

In Moscow, once the Communists attained 10 percent of the vote tally, authorities allegedly stopped reporting further results. Official tallies showed the Communist Party of the Russian Federation gaining 11.8 percent of the vote nationwide, with variation by region.

The 63 percent total obtained by President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party turned out to closely replicate predictions from polling data. Zyuganov claimed that Putin’s party actually attained no more that 35 percent.

The Communists are “disposed to organize actions in the street in defense of clean and democratic elections,” according to sovross.ru.

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit @megalink.net).