World Notes: Puerto Rico, Colombia, Gaza, Italy, Kenya, Nepal

Puerto Rico: Workers nix layoffs, privatization

On International Workers Day, May 1, public sector unions organized under the Broad Front of Solidarity and Struggle launched demonstrations in San Juan. The police put the crowd at 30,000.

Utility workers, bus drivers, firefighters and teachers carried out a warning strike. The protests were directed at Governor Luis Fortuño’s plans, approved by the legislature, to lay off up to 60,000 workers, privatize state enterprises and eliminate salary increases and benefits. Gov. Fortuño, charged by protesters with violating the rule of law, was “studying alternatives” to cutting jobs, TeleSUR reported.

Unemployment in Puerto Rico was 14.7 percent in March. The government faces a $3 billion deficit.



Colombia: Lawyer says Dole pays for murder

Terry Collingsworth, lawyer for victims’ families, filed a suit in Los Angeles recently against the giant Dole Food Company. He alleges the U.S. corporation paid rightwing paramilitary groups to kill 57 unionists and peasants in Magdalena Department. They had fallen into disfavor for protesting company treatment of workers, or for living on land sought for banana growing.

From 1997 through 2006 Dole supposedly used shadow companies to launder payments to paramilitaries active despite the government’s demobilization campaign.

Interviewed May 5 by the Colombian newspaper El Espectador, Collingworth looked forward to having Dole officials testify before the U.S Congress. He is also suing Chiquita Corporation on behalf of victims. That U.S. corporation admitted to paying paramilitaries $1.7 million from 1997 to 2004.



Gaza: UN report blames Israeli army

A UN report submitted to the Security Council May 5 by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accused the Israel military of “negligence or recklessness” in its conduct of war in Gaza earlier this year. Ban has refused to release the full report.

The scope of the report was limited to damage and deaths involving UN facilities and staff. Investigators found that in seven of nine incidents studied, Israel had “breached the inviolability” of the UN. The report calls for reparations for damages estimated at $11 million.

The toll included 53 UN installations used for humanitarian relief, among them schools, health centers, warehouses and emergency shelters. Israel condemned the UN report as “tendentious and patently biased,” according to Al Jazeera.



Italy: Migrants sent back to Africa

The transfer to Libya last week of 227 migrants from Africa picked up at sea by the Navy came about under terms of a new agreement with Libya expected to ease friction between Italy and Malta over disposition of migrants apprehended in Maltese waters.

“The migrants were unable to make any demands for political asylum because they weren’t even received,” UN spokesperson Laura Boldrini complained. A month earlier, the Italian ship Pinar carrying 150 refugees remained four extra days at sea because of disputed responsibilities for refugees.

A principal engineer of the agreement, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, belongs to the anti-immigration Northern League party. The BBC says 37,000 Africans reached Italy last year, a 75 percent increase.



Kenya: China steps up ties

Highlighting close relations with Kenya over 40 years, the head of a high-level Chinese delegation visiting Kenya earlier this month promised, “We will work with the three parties that form the ruling coalition government. We know that these three parties are key to the stability of this country.”

Wang Jiarui was representing the International Department of the Communist Party’s Central Committee. In reply, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka observed that China “does not interfere with internal matters of other countries.” The Communist Party’s “effective management … of the country’s economic affairs” could serve Kenya as a model, he added.

Chinese companies are heavily engaged in road-building work and oil exploration, according to Xinhua news.



Nepal: Resignation provokes gov’t crisis

Prime Minister Prachandra resigned last week, removing his Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist, CPN-M)) from the government. He was protesting the president’s reinstatement of Nepal’s army chief, whom Prachandra sacked because he had yet to incorporate Maoist guerrillas into the army, a necessary condition for the former insurgents to enter electoral politics.

The president, who belongs to the Congress Party, asked the Communist Party Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, Nepal’s third largest party, to form a consensus government. The French news agency AFP reported the process as stalled a week later due to CPN-M intransigence.

Without a functioning government, Nepal’s Constitutional Assembly was stymied.

Gulfnews.com reported police harassment of 500 CPN-M women who demonstrated outside the president’s office urging the army chief’s removal.

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