Haiti: Lavalas describes repression

In a March 25 press conference, spokespersons for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas (FL), cited the killing or kidnapping of many FL supporters, the Haitian press agency AHP reported. They said many others fled the country or hid in the forest to escape the violent armed supporters of the former opposition.

“Since President Aristide was overthrown, there have been planned persecutions against the population and Fanmi Lavalas supporters,” said FL member Wilfrid Lavaud.

The party also sharply criticized interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue for suspending Haiti’s relations with CARICOM, the Caribbean community of nations, and supporting criminals like the armed gangs that took over Gonaives.

While urging people to cooperate in the disarmament process, FL said it hoped the process would not serve as an excuse for repression.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International last week expressed deep concern about confirmed criminals and former leaders of military and paramilitary organizations now operating freely, including in positions of power.

Honduras: Company security kills activist

On March 13, Cesar Virgilio Pinot of the activist cooperative Martires de Guaymas was killed by security forces of Agro Oriental, a palm oil producer. A fellow activist was wounded and captured.

The Campaign for Labor Rights said Agro Oriental’s security forces have been menacing community leaders in the region since palm growers organized their own marketing association, depriving Agro Oriental of some of its profits. Community leaders have been accused of “illegal association” under a probably unconstitutional “anti-gang law,” and activists have been jailed.

Messages demanding a complete investigation of Virgilio’s assassination, the trial of those responsible, and an end to repression against the communities can be sent to Honduran Ambassador Mario M. Canahuati at fax (202) 966-9751 or embassy@hondurasembassy.org, and Chiquita Brands International, telephone (513) 784-8000.

South Africa: Campaign for ANC victory

The South African Communist Party (SACP) held a “Red Thursday” March 25 to urge workers across the country to vote for the African National Congress (ANC) in elections on April 14. SACP members distributed a million leaflets and 100,000 posters in 40 major centers in all provinces. They carried the message: We want a strong public sector, worker rights, land reform, power to the poor. The SACP said the ANC election program called for building sustainable livelihoods, households and communities; creating a million public works jobs; credit for coops and small businesses; aid to youth and the self-employed; and expanding social grants.

Concerning opposition parties’ plans for “trickle-down” benefits to the poor as the rich increase their wealth, the SACP said, “That’s robbing us, and then giving back small change!”

Turkey: Gov’t scuttles tire workers’ strike

The national tire workers union Lastik-IS was slated to hold a nationwide strike last month to protest deteriorating pay and conditions at world famous tire manufacturers, including Pirelli. But on March 21 Prime Minister Recep Erdogan signed a decree “postponing” the strike for 60 days, thus essentially banning the planned protest.

The pretext Erdogan used – a claim that the action would “endanger public health or national security” – was used earlier against the Kristal-IS trade union, which represents 5,000 workers in the glass industry. (The glass workers’ steadfast struggle was ultimately rewarded by a big retroactive pay hike and another increase for 2004.)

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions sent a sharp protest to Erdogan, demanding that the Turkish government immediately revise its policy which restrains legitimate strike action.

Italy: General strike paralyzes country

Workers belonging to the country’s three major labor federations virtually shut the country down for four hours March 26 in a general strike to protest the far-right Berlusconi government’s economic policies, including plans to restrict pensions, reform education and cut public spending.

Most workers struck for four hours, but in the Rome area and in Sicily they struck for eight hours, while schools, banks and post offices were shut down all day. It was the fourth general strike in two years over government economic plans.

The government seeks to replace the current option of full retirement benefits at age 57 with 35 years of service, by requiring 40 years of service for a full pension.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (mbec@mindspring.com).