Colombia: Women vs. war

The International Women’s Encounter against War, held Aug. 10-12 in Bogota, brought together some 300 women from around Colombia. They were joined by 20 international guests, including members of Women in Black.

At the gathering, sponsored by Women’s Initiative for Peace and Women’s Peaceful Way, participants agreed that fundamentalism, terrorism and militarism are grave threats today and that all conflicts in social and political relations should be resolved through dialogue and negotiations. They demanded a negotiated political settlement to the armed conflict in Colombia, and inclusion of the economic, social, cultural and environmental rights of women in the peace agenda.

“Peace is built by everyone — men and women,” Nubia Castanada, regional coordinator of Women’s Peaceful Way in Choco province, told the newspaper Voz in an interview. “But this has to be a different kind of peace — peace with social justice, with truth, restitution and rebuilding. This is the call we are making to the present government, to every man and every woman.”

Iraq: Woman union leader elected

Hashimia Muhsin Hussein has been elected president of the Electricity and Energy Union in Basra — the first woman trade union leader in the country’s history, the Iraqi Federation of Workers’ Trade Unions (IFTU) said in an Aug. 23 press release.

Hussein, elected to the post last May, said workers in Basra continue to face huge problems. For example, she said, some local Iraqi administrators are trying to revive Saddam Hussein’s anti-union law of 1987, which banned public sector workers from forming or joining unions.

She emphasized that as a founding member of Basra IFTU, the Electricity and Energy Union, she is committed to the struggle of the national IFTU for workers’ rights to union representation, social justice, and a stable, pluralistic and democratic Iraq.

India: Truckers, gov’t reach agreement

The All India Motor Transport Congress announced Aug. 28 that it was calling off its weeklong strike after reaching agreement with the government for a panel to study the controversial imposition of a 10 percent service tax on freight booking agents. The panel is to include six union members and three government representatives. The government also pledged to release and drop charges against union leaders who had been arrested.

The strike started Aug. 21, when the truckers’ union asserted it would not be feasible for truckers to personally collect a 10 percent service tax from booking agents, suppliers or customers as outlined in government guidelines contained in the 2004-2005 national budget. The union also argued that the tax would fuel inflation.

The intervention of Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Hakishan Singh Surjeet paved the way for the agreement, when Surjeet persuaded Finance Minister P. Chidambaram to enter the talks.

Equatorial Guinea: Thatcher’s son arrested in plot

South African authorities arrested Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Aug. 25, in connection with a plot to overthrow Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the UN’s IRIN News Agency said last week.

Plot leader Nick du Toit, an alleged South African mercenary now on trial in Libreville, the country’s capital, told the court he was introduced to Thatcher in July 2003 by Simon Mann, another alleged coup plotter. The plot to replace Nguema with an exiled opposition leader was exposed in March.

Shortly before du Toit spoke, Thatcher, a businessman, was arrested in Capetown by South African police and charged with involvement in the plot.

Equatorial Guinea, a small nation on the Gulf of Guinea, has significant oil reserves. The U.S. administration is paying increasing attention to this region, with high-ranking Bush administration officials having paid recent visits.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (