Swaziland: Protesters demand democracy

Swazi demonstrators and their South African supporters wound up four days of protests for democracy and human rights Aug. 15 with a joint rally at the Oshoek border post between the two countries. The demonstrations coincided with the Global 2003 Smart Partnership International Dialogue Summit held in the Swazi capital, Mbabane. Protesters said the conference should not have been held in Swaziland while the government of King Mswati III attacks and jails peaceful advocates for democracy.

On Aug. 13, security forces attacked demonstrators using tear gas and batons. Police dragged suspected demonstrators out of stores, and beat bystanders and people who tried to aid injured protesters.

Demonstrations in Swaziland, organized by a broad coalition of labor, peoples’ and youth organizations, received solidarity from many South African organizations including the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party.

Liberia: Security needed for relief supplies

Ross Mountain, new United Nations special humanitarian coordinator for Liberia, said Aug. 17 that his top priority is to achieve better security so humanitarian agencies can bring food, safe drinking water and medical care urgently needed after years of civil war.

Speaking shortly before a peace accord was signed Aug. 18 by the government and two rebel groups, Mountain said he was encouraged by progress in the talks, but warned that “the situation on the ground is still very volatile and on the humanitarian front there are certainly no grounds for complacency.” He said it will be a huge challenge to get thousands of former child soldiers back into school and normal life.

The UN Integrated Regional Information Networks reported that two ships carrying rice and fuel are due in Monrovia this week, but unloading and distribution of food will be hampered by looting and damage to port facilities during the fighting.

Argentina: No pardon for repression

After long and intense debate, Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies voted Aug. 13 to annul the laws of pardon protecting hundreds of soldiers and police agents responsible for the murder and disappearance of some 30,000 people in the 1970s and 1980s. Next week the Senate must endorse or revoke the deputies’ decision. The Cuban news agency Granma International said Senate endorsement of the action would be a major step toward bringing the perpetrators of repression to trial.

Jose Maria Diaz, head of the governing Justalicia Party, called the decision “historic,” and said it responds to the wishes of recently elected President Nestor Kirchner. “This is part of the serious image that the president is trying to give to resolve cases of this kind within a legal framework and to create a path of justice,” said Alberto Fernandez, head of the Cabinet.

Haiti: Reparations campaign makes progress

A joint commission of officials from various government ministries said last week they have massive documentation backing Haiti’s claim against the French government for restitution of 90 million gold francs paid in 1825 in exchange for France’s recognition of the country’s independence. The sum, currently worth over $21 billion, took nearly a century to pay.

To date, France has responded by placing Haiti on a list of “undesirable” countries not to be visited.

Commission member and Justice Minister Calixte Delatour called on all Haitians to join the campaign for restitution, the Haitian Press Agency AHP reported. Delatour also urged President Bertrand Aristide to make the teaching of the history of slavery mandatory in all Haitian schools.

In 1804, after years of bitter, bloody struggle, Haiti broke the power of the brutal French plantation slaveholders, and won independence from France. Big celebrations are planned for next year’s bicentennial.

China: Job creation takes center stage

China is working to create eight million jobs this year to help ease rising unemployment, and is emphasizing reemployment of laid-off workers. President Hu Jintao told a national symposium last week that despite significant progress, China will continue to face a relatively grave employment situation for a long time. Hu also noted that China has favorable conditions for job creation, including sustained rapid economic growth, improvement in restructuring sectors of the economy, and the development of a number of pro-employment policies.

Hu urged special attention to developing labor intensive industries, ensuring social security for laid-off workers, improved job training and job-finding services. This year 24 million Chinese are looking for jobs. China’s labor departments have set up some 18,000 employment agencies which helped nearly 10 million jobless people find employment last year. The agencies’ services are free of charge.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel, |international secretary of the Communist Party USA. She can be reached at cpusainternat@mindspring.com