S. Africa: March to U.S. Embassy

Some 4,000 people representing 60 organizations – including the governing African National Congress, the Communist Party of South Africa and the Congress of South African Trade Unions – brought a powerful anti-war message to the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria Feb. 19. Chanting, “No to war, yes to peace,” the demonstrators rallied as a delegation including ANC Secretary-General Kgalema Motlanthe, United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, Tshwane Mayor Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, COSATU President Willie Madisha, and SACP General Secretary Blade Nzimande went inside to present the Declaration of South Africans United to Stop the War in Iraq. The action is part of the Stop the War campaign.

Colombia: Deaths and threats continue

Trade union and social justice organizations are protesting last week’s assassination of Sintraemcali union activist Fredy Perilla Montoya, and renewed death threats against Sintraemcali’s former president, Dr. Alexander Lopez Maya, according to information from the Committee for Labor Rights.

Perilla was shot to death Feb. 21 when he refused efforts by unknown persons to force him to get into their truck. Dr. Lopez, now a member of the Colombian Congress who has been a leading opponent of privatization and of government anti-democratic measures and human rights violations, has received death threats over many years. The latest was made in a phone call to his office, also on Feb. 21.

Send protest messages to: President Alvaro Uribe, auribe@presidencia.gov.co, or call the Colombian Embassy at (202) 387-8338; fax (202) 232-8643.

Italy: Protesters will block arms shipments

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi professes strong support for the Bush administration’s drive to attack Iraq, but polls say 7 out of 10 Italians oppose war even if the UN okays it. So it is no surprise that the union representing 90 percent of dock workers says it will refuse to load or unload all shipments of U.S. weapons coming through Italy’s ports.

“We don’t want our workers involved in the transport of arms,” union head Guido Abbadessa said in an interview published by La Stampa Feb. 23.

The previous day, over 1,000 anti war protesters squatted on railway tracks across northern Italy, forcing the re-routing of military cargo. “We’re taking matters into our own hands,” protest leader Luca Casarini told Reuters Feb. 23. “We’re taking stock of all shipments between U.S. bases planned this week and we’re going to try and block them all.”

Haiti: Former soldiers arrested

The Haitian National Police on Feb. 19 arrested four former members of the military, in the country’s Central Plateau, according to Agence Haitienne de Presse. The four, accused of involvement in the killing of police office Patrick Samedi, belong to an armed group that has been terrorizing the small village of Pernales.

At the same time, armed individuals identified as former members of the military shot up the residence of Villier Barbeau, the legislative deputy from Lascahobas. Barbeau, who was away at the time, accused the local directors of the opposition Democratic Convergence of responsibility, and asked police and judicial authorities to redouble their efforts to end the violence in the Central Plateau.

Venezuela: Pro-Chavez workers attacked

In mid-February, 30 tire factory workers in Barquisimeto were attacked while riding to work in a bus operated by their employer. Two workers were injured – one hit in the eye with a glass splinter, and the other shot in the arm. The attack occurred in front of a police officer, and the driver, who slowed just before a burst of nine bullets was fired into the bus, seemed to be in cahoots.

The workers at the Covencaucho tire factory occupied the plant in January to protest their employer’s attempt to make them take “unpaid holidays” as part of the business-led lockout in opposition to the government of President Hugo Chavez. The action inspired other workers to occupy the neighboring Semosa factory in early February, demanding full payment for the time they also lost in the lockout.

Australia: Building trades will strike over war

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) is planning a strike by as many as 10,000 workers on building sites in Sydney on the day any war is declared against Iraq. The union has called a special Feb. 25 meeting of 300 delegates from the city’s building sites to work out a plan of coordinated industrial action. If war breaks out, unionized building trades workers would be expected to stop work immediately and join other protesters in demonstrations. The CMFEU has also designated one of its chief campaigners to work full time for an anti-war coalition of unions, churches, community groups and political parties.

International notes are compiled weekly by Marilyn Bechtel, Communist Party USA international secretary.

She can be reached at cpusainternat@mindspring.com