Haiti: Caricom insists on investigation

Because the Caribbean Community (Caricom) insisted on it, the Organization of American States (OAS) passed a resolution last week that opens the door to an OAS investigation of the circumstances surrounding the U.S.-orchestrated forced removal of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Feb. 29.

The 15 Caricom nations have never recognized the interim Haitian government headed by Gerard Latortue. They insisted the resolution invoke Article 20 of the OAS Charter, which says in case of an “unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state,” any member country can call for the convening of the permanent council to assess and take decisions about the matter.

The Inter Press Service News Agency quoted University of the West Indies professor Nevill Duncan as saying an investigation may be unlikely, but “it is another symbolic strike against U.S. exceptionalism … the U.S. feels no longer part of international protocols and treaties like the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court; this is the way in which the world is getting back.”

Japan: JCP releases election policies

Iraq policy and pensions head the list of election policies to “bring about hope to the people” announced by the Japanese Communist Party in advance of next month’s House of Councilors elections.

The JCP is calling for an end to the military occupation of Iraq, establishment of a United Nations-led program for the country’s reconstruction, and immediate withdrawal of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces troops who have been dispatched to Iraq.

On the pension issue, the JCP is calling for a minimum pension of 50,000 yen per month (about $450) in order to provide a decent standard of living.

Nigeria: General strike wins fuel price rollback

Nigeria’s labor unions called off a three-day general strike June 11, the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks reported. The unions said the government had substantially complied with a court order demanding cancellation of fuel price increases that caused the walkout.

Adams Oshiomhole, head of the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), said the unions would give the government seven days to make sure fuel dealers in the oil-rich country returned to the former prices. He warned that the strike might resume “if the government resorts to the tactic of manipulating supply.”

The country’s two major labor federations, the NLC and the Trade Union Congress, started the strike after gas, diesel and kerosene prices were hiked 20 percent late last month.

West African countries now produce as much oil as does Saudi Arabia. The U.S. plans to build a major naval base on the island of Sao Tome in the Gulf of Guinea.

Britain: Labor loses big in local vote

Voters angry about the role of Britain’s Labor Party government as the Bush administration’s main ally in the Iraq war gave the Labor Party an unprecedented drubbing in local elections across the country last week.

Britain’s Morning Star newspaper said senior government officials admitted that the devastating results, which pushed Labor into third place behind the Liberal Democrats, were a direct result of the Iraq war.

Though they made significant gains across England and Wales, the Morning Star said, the pro-war Tories failed to make a breakthrough, while the Liberal Democrats also failed to gain from Labor’s defeat.

The Greens won seats across Britain, while the Socialist Alliance retained its single council seat. Except for “a disturbing three seat gain” in Epping Forest, the fascist British National Party also failed to make a breakthrough, the Morning Star said.

El Salvador: Boycott urged over child labor

The New York-based Human Rights Watch last week called on companies to boycott sugar from El Salvador, charging in a report that as many as one–third of the country’s sugar workers are younger than 18, and many started work between the ages of 8 and 13.

HRW said the use of machetes by children to cut sugarcane and strip leaves from the stalks often causes injury, and that work frequently keeps children out of school for the first few months of the year.

The government said it is working to alleviate the situation. But HRW counsel Michael Bochenek called on companies that use sugar in their manufacturing process to make sure they are not adding to the problem. He singled out Coca Cola – already under fire from U.S. unions for their union-busting in Colombia – for special attention. Coke responded by claiming it does not condone use of child labor, and had ensured that its direct suppliers were not hiring children.

Russia: Unions protest over wages and benefits

Hundreds of thousands of trade unionists throughout Russia took to the streets June 10 with the theme, “Say no to reduction of social rights of employees and people!”

They demanded payment of back pay, salary increases of 50 percent, a minimum wage sufficient for a decent standard of living, preservation of social guarantees and benefits, and urgent consultations between the unions and the government over the latter’s proposals that would violate working people’s social and economic interests.

A bill backed by the Putin administration and now on its way to Parliament would end many key social benefits dating from Soviet times. Among these would be free bus service for pensioners and the disabled, subsidized medicines for veterans, and subsidies for electricity and water bills.

The unions said if their demands are ignored, they will hold a nationwide strike in September.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (mbechtel@pww.org).

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