Colombia: Coke workers on hunger strike

On March 15 Coca-Cola union workers in Colombia began a hunger strike in front of Coke bottling plants in several cities, including Barrancabermeja, Bogota, Cali, Cartagena, and Medellin.

“If we lose the fight against Coca-Cola,” said union leader Juan Carlos Galvis, “we will first lose our union, next our jobs and then our lives.”

Last September Coca-Cola FEMSA closed production lines at 11 of its 16 bottling plants. Since then they have pressured over 500 workers into “voluntarily resigning” in exchange for a lump-sum payment. Most union leaders have refused to resign and the company has escalated pressure against them.

The union is demanding that Coca-Cola FEMSA should relocate displaced workers within the affected plants, or to other plants.

Faxed messages can be sent to Lori George Billingsley, media relations issue director at the Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, at (404) 598-5051, demanding the Coca-Cola Company, which owns almost half FEMSA’s voting stock, call on FEMSA to meet the union’s demands.

Haiti: Demand jail for death squad leaders

The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) demanded, March 19, that FRAPH death squad leader Louis Jodel Chamblain, and Jean Pierre (alias Jean Tatoune), be arrested and jailed, saying both should be sentenced to life for their participation in slaughtering Haitian people, the Haitian Press Agency AHP reported.

The two are accused of participating in the murder of many police officers and civilians during the fighting which led to last month’s coup d’état against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

FRAPH is also accused of participating, along with the army, in the slaughter of over 5,000 people during the earlier 1991-1994 coup d’etat. Jean Tatoune was found guilty of participating in the Raboteau (Gonaives) massacre of April 1994, in which dozens of people were killed.

The NCHR said there will soon be an investigation of the case of the Lavalas activists who were apparently locked in a container before being drowned at sea at Cap-Haitien Feb. 22 when the city was taken over by the armed gangs.

Cuba: Orbis to create eye bank

Dr. Rhona M. Duggan, head of the international ophthalmology project ORBIS, has confirmed that Orbis will continue its support of Cuba and announced that the project will establish an eye bank on the island with the cooperation of prestigious U.S. institutions.

Duggan praised the quality of Cuba’s health services and the high level of training of its specialists. She expressed satisfaction at the teaching, academic and scientific exchange among experts from 14 countries in the eighth program on the island, and said it had been a privilege to work with the Cubans and gain so much experience.

Established in the U.S. in 1982, ORBIS International’s principal aim is to train doctors, nurses and technical personnel. To date it has offered its services to 72 countries free of charge.

Namibia: 14 years of independence

The coastal town of Walvis Bay was the site of last weekend’s celebration of the 14th anniversary of Namibia’s independence, and the 10th anniversary of Walvis Bay’s reintegration into the country.

“The obvious significance of the celebrations is that 14 years ago, on March 21, the Namibian people after a long and bitter struggle proclaimed freedom,” said Prime Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab. “The event is so significant and historic that we will always remember and tell the future generations about it. There is no single other date on the national calendar as important as March 21.”

After independence, it took more than three years of negotiations with South Africa before Walvis Bay and the offshore islands were reintegrated into the country.

Australia: New law cuts basic labor rights

The Australian Council of Trade Unions last week submitted a complaint to the International Labor Organization over the Howard government’s proposed new law that the ACTU says would seriously restrict building workers’ ability to bargain collectively.

The bill would allow governments to interfere in the relationship between employees and employers as they bargain over wages and conditions, the ACTU said.

The law would reduce labor action to a 14-day “window,” which would lead to more intense and disruptive labor action, the union federation said. “For example, a simple event such as a site information meeting among employees would automatically trigger the 14-day ‘window’ and workers would then be forced into a strike situation when they were not seeking any such conflict.” The ACTU noted that the bill also contradicts the Howard government’s recent agreement with Washington over “free trade,” which calls on each side to respect labor rights.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (