Worldnotes - June 7, 2008

Czech Republic: Resistance grows to U.S. bases

In Prague, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar not to expect their hunger strikes to keep U.S. missile tracking systems out of the Czech Republic. The same day, May 27, Russian General Yevgeny Buzhinsky warned of “asymmetrical” steps if Washington persisted with missile deployment in Poland.

Hunger strikers in Europe and Australia, as well as Sung-Hee Choi and Bruce Gagnon in the U.S., joined Tamas and Bednar whose fasts began May 12. Bednar has been hospitalized.

Surveys document overwhelming national rejection of U.S. bases. One proposed site is Visky. There, Mayor Lubomir Fiala blames corporate profiteers and adds, according to Z Magazine, “I can’t stomach American expansionism.”





Brazil: New security alliance formed

In Brasilia, 12 Latin American nations created a continent-wide military alliance when they signed the Union of South American Nations into existence May 23. Conspicuously absent were the U.S. and Colombia.

The founders agreed on a permanent secretariat to be located in Quito, Ecuador; a council of heads of state and a council of foreign ministers.

Analysts see sharpening of conflicts between Colombia and its neighbors as impetus for the multinational agreement. For Bolivian President Evo Morales, quoted in the Colombia Indymedia report, “This is the dream of our ancestors, the struggle of our leaders that defended unity and bet on independence.”





Iraq: Unions urge end to anti-union measures

At its meeting in mid-May, the General Federation of Iraqi Workers, representing 15 unions, coupled assent to a recent governmental call for union elections with progress on key worker demands, chief among them abolition of a Saddam Hussein-era decree barring public sector workers from joining unions.

The International Trade Union Confederation’s web site says most workers affiliated with the Federation actually belong to public sector unions.

In Basra, the conferees also called upon the al-Maliki government to discard “Decree No. 8750,” issued by occupation forces in 2005, authorizing confiscation of union funds and preventing dues collections.

“We agree with the format for union elections, but with reservations,” said GFIW International Representative Abdullah Muhsin. “Full freedom of association and common recognition of free and democratic trade unions inside Iraq must come first.”





Egypt: Textile strikes snowball

Prosecutors in Mahalla are investigating five unionists jailed following a failed strike in early April at the state-owned Ghazl El-Mahalla spinning factory.

That strike, violently suppressed, coincided with demonstrations against rising food prices. Defendants Kamal El-Fayyoumy and Karim El-Beheiry have embarked on hunger strikes to protest information withheld on charges against them. Claiming prosecutors’ subservience to police agencies, defense lawyer Ahmed Ezzat sees the case as “clearly political,” according to labourstart.org.

Meanwhile a wildcat strike broke out May 26 at Alexandria’s Al-Amiriya Textile Company. Workers there were demanding a one-month bonus equal to that awarded the Mahalla workers to entice them to end their strike.





Puerto Rico: Primary highlights colonial status

In a June 1 Democratic Party primary marked by boycotts and protests, the real winners were the voters who chose not to participate. Only some 385,000 Puerto Rican voters — about 16 percent —went to the polls. In the last general election, 87 percent of the electorate voted. Independence groups boycotted the voting and activists marched “for decolonization and for dignity.” Politicians, sports figures, religious and trade union leaders joined the protest.

Democratic and Republican parties do not exist in Puerto Rico and politics there are Puerto Rico — not U.S. — oriented. Puerto Ricans living on the island also aren’t allowed to vote for U.S. president.

Juan Dalmau, general secretary of Puerto Rico’s small Independence Party, called the contest “a carnival of assimilation [that] has no real significance.” Dalmau complained that this year’s primary cost Puerto Rican taxpayers $2.5 million. Before it was a caucus paid for by Democrats.





Cuba: Amnesty International raps U.S.

Every year Amnesty International surveys the state of human rights in the world. Pointing out that “injustice, inequality and impunity are the hallmarks of our world today,” its recently issued report for 2007 took note of five Cuban men persecuted for investigating anti-Cuban terrorists in Florida — a first during their nearly decade-long imprisonment.

Their case was one of three included in a section on the U.S. “Justice System.”

AI focused on the prisoners’ appeals and cited both delays and defense allegations of insufficient evidence and prosecutorial misconduct.

Again this year, the report condemned U.S. refusal to allow two wives to visit their husbands in prison.





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