Haiti: Gov’t calls for end to terror

Haiti’s Prime Minister Yvon Neptune Feb. 8 called on opposition leaders to end the terrorist violence committed by their followers in several regions of the country, especially Gonaives, Saint-Marc and Grand-Goave, the Haitian news agency AHP reported.

“The opposition cannot wish to attain power through guns,” Neptune said. “If it wished to participate in efforts made by the government to reinforce democracy, it must renounce violence.”

In recent weeks, the opposition coalition Platform of the 184 has repeatedly refused to join peaceful efforts to resolve the crisis. Several opposition leaders have declared that street demonstrations are not enough to overturn the elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The opposition spokesperson in Gonaives – where opposition activists have repeatedly attacked government facilities – said Feb. 6 that street protests can’t prove anything because the government’s supporters always take to the streets in greater numbers.

Sierra Leone: Disarmament process complete

Sierra Leone last week completed a five year program to disarm and rehabilitate over 70,000 combatants who participated in the brutal civil war starting in 1991, the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks reported.

In his final report, Francis Kaikai, executive secretary of the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (NCDDR), said after disarming 72,490 fighters, including 6,845 children under 18, and demobilizing 71,043 ex-combatants, he was “no longer aware of any illegal armed groups posing a threat to the state of Sierra Leone.”

Many former combatants were given job training and needed tools, helped to find farm or other work, or sent to schools and colleges.

Over 10,000 UN peacekeepers are still deployed in the country, but all are due to leave by the end of this year. An agreement in July 1999 led to setting up the NCDDR. But fighting only finally stopped in 2001.

Germany: Metal workers stage warning strikes

Tens of thousands of metal workers held brief strikes around the country as talks between IG Metall – the country’s largest industrial union – and employers in the trend-setting southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg stalled Feb. 5. Negotiations were slated to resume Feb. 11.

The workers walked out after union representatives initially rejected an offer of a 1.2 percent raise for manufacturing workers over the 15 months following Jan. 1, with another 1.2 percent raise over the next 12 months. The 2.5 million-member union is demanding a 4 percent pay hike this year.

Union Vice President Berthold Huber told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper that if agreement isn’t reached by the end of this month, the union would “have to prepare for a fight.”

Cuba: Idaho legislators visit

Two conservative Republican members of Congress – Sen. Larry Craig and Rep. Butch Otter – started a visit to Cuba Feb. 6, together with 15 agricultural representatives and the Idaho Hemingway House Foundation. The legislators have been calling for an end to the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba.

The group planned to hold talks with the Cuban government about sales of Idaho farm products.

“I’ve always believed that trade is the key to prosperity, in America and around the world,” Otter told the Idaho Press Tribune. Craig observed, “This is an excellent opportunity for Idaho agriculture to bolster sagging markets by greatly increasing the ability of Idaho farmers to sell livestock products, specialty products and other commodities to Cuba.”

South Korea: Auto workers demand leader’s reinstatement

Workers at Kia Motors Corp., South Korea’s second-largest auto maker, started a series of partial strikes Feb. 4 to demand reinstatement of a fired union leader. The unionist had told overtime workers to stop work for three hours on Dec. 6 without consulting beforehand with management and union members. Management claimed the action constituted an illegal strike.

Workers in the 23,500-member union vowed to continue the half-day strikes every day until their demand is met. Management officials said prolonged stoppages would hurt Kia’s earnings, with more than 10 days of partial strikes cutting into the company’s exports.

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