Lesotho: Strike leaders arrested

The two top leaders of Lesotho’s Factory Workers Union (FAWU) – Billy Macaefa and Willie Matheo – have been arrested following last week’s strike and protest demonstration, the United Nations’ Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) reported.

On Nov. 10, thousands of workers marched to the headquarters of the Employers’ Association of Lesotho carrying a petition protesting a 5.5 percent wage increase offered by textile factories.

Alleging that the protest turned violent, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd. In the ensuing confusion, a woman was trampled to death, and a man reportedly died later in a hospital. Police then arrested the union leaders.

Calling the police allegations of property damage and public disorder baseless, the union charged police had failed to warn the protesters before opening fire, and said the union would sue the police for their unjustified attack.

Russia-China-South Korea:

Giant gas pipe planned

If the three governments involved approve a $17 billion joint pipeline project, Russia is expected to export a large amount of gas from its Siberian fields to China and South Korea, People’s Daily reported last week.

On Nov. 14 in Moscow, after eight years of evaluation and research, Russia’s RUSIA Petroleum, China National Petroleum Corporation and Korea Gas Corporation signed an International Feasibility Study (IFS) Report on the proposed pipeline. The three companies will submit the IFS report to their respective governments for approval before starting further commercial negotiations.

The nearly 5,000 kilometer pipeline, the longest of its kind in Asia, will link the Kovykta gas field in Irkutsk Oblast to Shenyang, Beijing and Dalian in China, and finally to Pyeongtaek in South Korea via a pipeline submerged beneath the sea. First delivery is expected in 2008.

Cuba: Development, not war

Welcoming participants to Havana for the 18th Conference of the Organization for Proscription of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL), Cuba’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Fernando Remirez de Estenoz urged a massive shift of military funds to sustainable development, and pledged Cuba’s continued commitment to complete nuclear disarmament.

“How much could be done if just one part of the $849 billion annual military expenditure – almost half corresponding to just one country – were invested in [giving] attention to the 815 million people in the world suffering from hunger” as well as those in extreme poverty and deprivation, he said.

Remirez repeated Cuban proposals to place half of current world military expenditures in a U.N.-managed fund for sustainable development. He said that despite the pressures of the U.S. blockade, aggression and threats, Cuba’s military spending has fallen dramatically in the last decade, while spending has been maintained and increased for education, public health, social security and other priorities of the revolution.


Hunger strike for civil liberties

Tunisian lawyer Radhia Nasrawi has been on hunger strike since Oct. 15 – the opening of Tunisia’s judicial year – to protest the Ben Ali regime’s repression of basic civil liberties of progressive forces including members of the Workers’ Communist Party of Tunisia (PCOT). Many PCOT members, including General Secretary Hamma Hammami, Nasrawi’s husband, have been imprisoned and tortured. Nasrawi herself has been under attack by the regime for her role as legal representative of those accused in many political cases in Tunisia.

Nasrawi’s hunger strike is receiving important support from progressive organizations. The head of the Tunisian Bar visits her every day, while local lawyers’ organizations, the Association of Arabic Lawyers and Arab Lawyers League based in Cairo have expressed their solidarity. Also backing her struggle are pro-democracy organizations including students, writers, women and many trade unionists and intellectuals.

Canada: Workers locked out

Dominion Stores closed all 15 of its stores in Newfoundland this week after the Canadian Auto Workers Union started rotating strikes, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Company.

Workers in Corner Book and Marystown walked off their jobs Nov. 16, the CBC said, and the company responded by shutting down all its stores in the province by 6 p.m.

The union members had voted in favor of the strike by over 95 percent. Salaries and seniority are the two big issues, and the workers have been without a contract since July.

Workers in Corner Brook said the company wanted to hire 32 nonunion workers to do work now done by union members.

Workers said they believe Dominion was preparing for a long closure, because shelves that usually would be filled with Christmas items are now empty.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (cpusainternat@mindspring.com).