Cuba: Charges of interference refuted

In a July 19 statement, Cuba’s Foreign Ministry sharply rejected charges in U.S. media that Cuba is interfering in U.S. satellite transmissions to Iran. Granma said some of the allegations quote Kenneth Tomlinson, director of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which supervises U.S. international radio and TV transmissions.

“With every right, Cuba has interfered, is interfering and will continue to interfere solely with the illegal radio and television transmissions that the U.S. government is sending to our country,” the ministry’s statement said.

The statement said the U.S. government currently violates international law and rules regulating international telecommunications with its 2,200 hours of radio and TV broadcasting to Cuba each week. It noted that Tomlinson had gone before a House of Representatives subcommittee last month to urge the transmissions be increased.

The Foreign Ministry said the Cuban government would investigate to see if any Cuban broadcasts could be unintentionally interfering with the U.S. transmissions.

China: Gov’t offers economic cooperation to Taiwan

For the first time, the Chinese government has offered Taiwan a free trade pact to boost economic ties with the mainland. Wang Zaixi, deputy director of the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said such an agreement would ensure healthy, orderly development of bilateral economic ties. The proposal follows conclusion of the landmark free trade agreement, the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), between the mainland and Hong Kong.

In January 2002, the government proposed talks to set up a mechanism for economic cooperation with Taiwan, but Taiwan’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party government did not respond positively. But since the CEPA was concluded with Hong Kong, a growing number of businesspeople and economic researchers have called for a similar arrangement.

Despite the longstanding political stalemate, economic relations between the mainland and Taiwan have grown much stronger over the last 20 years. Wang said any barriers to economic cooperation should be removed, and any political dispute affecting economic exchanges “should be left aside and gradually resolved.”

Afghanistan: U.S. credibility on the line

Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah warned a conference in Washington last week that U.S. credibility would be at risk unless the United States does more to rebuild Afghanistan and to strengthen its government.

If the people of Kabul are still in the dark next year because of lack of electricity, Abdullah told a meeting organized by Radio Free Europe and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “this government will lose credibility, its friends will lose credibility … One can understand other engagements of a country like the United States but our case is a situation which would affect the ability and the credibility of the United States in relations with every other state.”

Abdullah added, “The test is in Afghanistan. Can we afford to fail the test in Afghanistan and be hopeful that we will make it somewhere else?”

Britain: Immigrant workers exploited

In a report released last week, Britain’s umbrella union federation, the Trades Union Congress, said thousands of immigrant workers suffer long hours, low pay and appalling housing conditions, while the employers who take advantage of their vulnerability go unpunished. The report, entitled “Overworked, Underpaid and Over Here,” said the working population born outside Britain had risen from 7 percent (1.8 million) of the total workforce in 1995 to 9 percent (2.6 million) in 2002.

The TUC said that migrant workers who complain to an official tribunal about illegal practices risk being fired for complaining, and thus, their right to remain in Britain. The union federation said undocumented migrant workers fare far worse.

The TUC called on Britain to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families.

South Africa: Mine strike looms

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said this week it will strike gold and coal companies after talks on wage hikes and benefits reached an impasse July 21. As many as 160,000 employees could stop work, Business Day said.

The last miners’ strike took place in 1987, two years after the formation of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) to which the NUM is affiliated.

The union declared a deadlock with gold producers Harmony, Gold Fields and South Deep, but said AngloGold had made a revised offer. Some coal producers had also made revised proposals, but several were deadlocked.

NUM General Secretary Gwede Mantashe said the union had tried to prevent a strike by agreeing to a protracted mediation process. The union initially sought a 20 percent wage hike, and rejected an offer of 8.5 percent. Also at issue are company contributions to retirement funds, and job grading.

International notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel