Venezuela: Recall petitions rejected

The National Electoral College (CNE) last week rejected petitions for a referendum on the recall of popularly elected President Hugo Chavez. In a decision announced Sept. 12, the country’s highest electoral body said the signatures gathered last February were collected before the constitutionally designated Aug. 19 starting time – halfway through Chavez’ six-year term.

The CNE also said the petition forms did not contain a required statement volunteering to abide by Article 12 of the Constitution, nor were they addressed to the CNE.

President Chavez was elected by a wide margin in 2000. Ever since, opposition forces led by the business community and backed by the Bush administration have been trying to remove him from office by various means, including a failed months-long attempt to shut down the economy.

Britain: TUC condemns Iraq invasion

The annual congress of the TUC national labor federation last week condemned Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The motion, which passed unanimously, also opposed any further U.S. efforts for regime change in countries such as Iran, Syria, North Korea and Cuba, the BBC said.

But the TUC stressed its support for the work of British troops in Iraq, many of whom are union members.

The vote came after Tony Woodley, general secretary-elect of the Transport and General Workers Union, called on Blair to “review his position” as prime minister in the wake of the conflict. Woodley said the war had led to the “unacceptable and needless deaths of Iraqi children,” and predicted the situation in Iraq would “get worse.” He called on the TUC congress to send the message that there should be “no return to the days of colonialism.”

Russia: Guarantee N. Korea’s security

Security guarantees in exchange for North Korea’s abandonment of its nuclear program are the only way to resolve the nuclear issue on the peninsula, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov said Sept. 12.

“Such an approach is supported by other participants in the recent six-party talks in Beijing,” he said at a forum in the Siberian city of Irkutsk.

The nuclear issue can only be resolved through negotiations, he said, otherwise it could lead to a rather difficult situation.

Losyukov, who was Russia’s top delegate to the six-party talks last month, said the second round may result in important accords. But he refused to speculate on a possible date for the talks’ resumption.

“Everything depends on the mood of all the participants to return to the negotiating table,” he said.

The U.S. has so far refused to negotiate a non-aggression treaty or to discuss other security guarantees demanded by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Uruguay: Health workers gain

Health care workers accepted a new government wage proposal last week. They agreed – pending approval by the doctors’ union – to end a long strike of public health workers.

The government’s proposal followed a Sept. 4 march by thousands of health workers and their supporters, demanding a living wage and adequate funding of the nation’s public health sector.

The strike, initiated almost two months ago by the country’s Federation of Public Health Officers, grew to include unions of doctors, nurses and medical support staff throughout the country.

PIT-CNT, Uruguay’s organized labor federation, joined rural and urban medical associations that not only demanded a living wage for health workers, but also pointed out that underfunding of Uruguay’s health sector has gravely affected patients as well. At the Sept. 4 demonstration, Dr. Susana Muniz, representing the Uruguayan Medical Association, condemned government austerity policies that have resulted in months-long national shortages of basic medications.

Pakistan: Writers for peace

The Pakistani writers’ organization Pen for Peace is optimistic about efforts to improve relations between Pakistan and India following last month’s visit by a 59-member Indian parliamentary delegation.

Pen for Peace was founded after both countries had set off nuclear explosions. Its ongoing campaign has built a consensus among writers of various schools of thought, lines of work and language backgrounds about ending hostilities between Pakistan and India and promoting friendship and detente on the subcontinent.

Wrote Dr. Farman Fatehpuri, professor of Urdu, “It is now 55 years since the India-Pakistan subcontinent was declared independent. That is the age the British government decreed for retirement of its employees. Let us also retire the British imperialist legacy … This is time enough for Pakistanis and Indians to cleanse their minds of all such biases and prejudices … as these were created with a purpose.”

International Notes are compiled by
Marilyn Bechtel (
Owen Williamson provided translation
assistance for this week’s notes.