Mozambique: Brazil pledges anti-HIV help

Speaking in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, last week during his five-nation African tour, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pledged that his country would soon build a factory in Mozambique to produce antiretroviral drugs.

Brazil has developed inexpensive generic antiretroviral drugs, and its anti-HIV campaign has helped keep the infection rate to less than 1 percent of its population. Mozambique is currently experiencing an infection rate of 16 percent.

Saying that the fight against HIV/AIDS is one of his country’s greatest challenges, Mozambique’s President Joaquim Chissano said Brazil’s successes in this field “will be a valuable contribution to our struggle against the epidemic.”

Starting in Sao Tome and Principe, Lula traveled to Angola before visiting Mozambique. Like Brazil, all three are former Portuguese colonies and thus share a common language. Lula then visited Namibia and South Africa.

Dominican Republic: Union activists arrested

Over 100 union leaders and activists were arrested Nov. 10, in anticipation of a strike called for Nov. 11 to protest the government’s IMF-inspired economic austerity policies, frequent power interruptions, and soaring prices.

An army spokesperson said 106 people had been arrested and accused of carrying concealed weapons or planning “subversive” actions.

Despite months of street protests, President Hipolito Mejia has dismissed demands for a change in economic policies.

The strike was planned for the same week that the government and the International Monetary Fund are negotiating over a stalled $600 million, two-year loan. The country’s heavily tourist-based economy has been plagued by the collapse of a major bank, Baninter, with allegations of fraud, as well as the collapse of the electrical power system when the government ran out of funds for subsidies.

Italy: Metalworkers strike over pay

Over 200,000 metalworkers marched through Rome Nov. 7 to demand an 8.5 percent pay hike. The left-led Italian Federation of Metal Workers (FIOM) said up to half the workers at Fiat’s main auto plant in Turin participated in the eight-hour walkout.

FIOM says the 8.5 percent pay hike would include a real increase of 1.5 percent as well as compensation for inflation in 2001 and 2002. Its action came after two smaller and less militant union federations – the Federation of Mechanical Industries and the Italian Union of Metal-Mechanical Workers – agreed to accept a pay increase of only 4.5 percent, less than the rate of inflation.

“Let no one make any illusions that we have finished with the demonstration today,” said Gianni Rinaldini, FIOM secretary-general. “We have decided on another eight-hour strike to extend the conflict.”

Bangladesh: Police attack workers

A garment worker was killed and up to 200 people were injured when police attacked a demonstration by thousands of protesting workers, most of them women, in the city of Narayanganj, Nov. 10.

The workers were demonstrating against the arrest Nov. 9 of leading trade union activist Mahbubul Rahman. The government had accused Rahman of making unreasonable wage demands for the workers he represents.

Over one million Bangladeshis – mostly women – work in the garment industry, a central component of the country’s economy, and its highest producer of foreign exchange.

This was the second time in recent weeks that police attacked a group of mostly women demonstrators. In October baton-wielding police injured at least 50 student nurses in the capital city, Dhaka.

UK: Warplanes fly over Scotland

Last week observers in the Highlands of Scotland reported seeing large movements of U.S. warplanes overhead. Peace-watchers at U.S. air bases in Fairford and Welford said planes were flying over at the rate of about one every 15 minutes. In information circulated by the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, they said the large numbers were reminiscent of those that preceded the bombing of Iraq in 1998 and the military strikes against Libya in the 1980s as well as the first Gulf War.

The peace observers said the planes probably flew a route from the U.S. over the North Pole to bases in Europe and the Mediterranean. They said the size and scale of the movement suggested the U.S. might be planning to strike soon at a country in the Middle East, possibly preparing to use the pretext of “foreign” terrorist attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq to attack Iran or Syria.

International Notes are compiled by
Marilyn Bechtel (