Spain: U.S. troops won’t march on holiday

Spain’s Defense Minister Jose Bono said last week that U.S. troops won’t march in Spain’s Oct. 12 national day parade this year. Instead, a French contingent will participate.

Former right-wing Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar had invited the U.S. contingent as a solidarity gesture after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and a small group participated again in 2002 and 2003, The New York Times said. But, responding to overwhelming popular demand, the newly installed center-left government immediately announced withdrawal of Spanish forces from Iraq.

Bono said the U.S. contingent was not invited this year because “it is a national holiday, not a U.S. holiday.” Bono added, “The alliance with the United States continues. What does not continue is the subordination and the kneeling” before Washington. The French presence is seen as an antiwar statement because of France’s opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Nigeria: Nationwide general strike starts

The Labor Civil Society Coalition started a nationwide four-day general strike Oct. 11 to protest gas price hikes following the government’s deregulation of the domestic fuel market. The International Monetary Fund is pushing deregulation as a key aspect of economic changes.

The coalition said the strike involves workers and working families, students, artisans, professionals, market men and women, and all segments of society. The Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) said the strike was slated to end at midnight, Oct. 14, but could continue if talks with the government did not result in progress.

NLC President Adams Oshiomhole told an Oct. 10 press conference that the federal government has not participated in talks to date. “The government is [instead] busy arming the military and the police to suppress protesters,” he said. Oshiomhole warned the government that if police and the military use terrorism against the people, “and one Nigerian is killed,” the protest will become “total and indefinite.”

Chile: Constitution to be overhauled

Chile’s national legislature is poised to remove some undemocratic provisions introduced into the constitution by former military dictator Augusto Pinochet, BBC News said last week. According to measures the legislature is expected to pass, the president will no longer have the right to remove the head of the armed forces, and past presidents will no longer automatically be made senators for life, making the senate fully electable. But there is no agreement on reforming an electoral system that observers say over-represents right-wing forces.

In August the country’s highest court ruled that Pinochet should be stripped of his immunity from prosecution, opening the way for a possible trial over his campaign of repression in the 1970s and 1980s.

Japan: Demand tests for all beef

A new accord for Japan to resume importing U.S. beef has been held up by Japanese consumers’ demand that all imported beef be tested for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), according to Japan Press Weekly.

In Japanese slaughterhouses, parts at high risk for collecting the abnormal prion causing BSE are removed from all beef cattle and tested, the journal said, while in the U.S. such parts are only removed from cattle 30 months and older.

“Food safety for the Japanese people will be seriously undermined if Japan yields to the pressure from [President] Bush, who is keen on gaining the support of U.S. cattle growers” in November, Press Weekly said. “Before pressing Japan to resume beef imports, the United States should conduct BSE tests on all beef cattle and remove all high-risk parts. It should never distort issues concerning food safety with crass political priorities.”

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel ( Julia Lutsky contributed to this week’s notes.