ICFTU: Give peace a chance

“There is still time for peace, but it is running out,” the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) said last week. In a statement issued in Brussels, Belgium, the umbrella union body said there is no clear evidence that Iraq is developing mass destruction weapons and poses a threat to world peace. In these circumstances, it said, “it is incumbent on the international community to persist with and to intensify political and diplomatic efforts to preserve peace.”

The ICFTU called on Iraq to fully implement all relevant UN decisions and declared its support for the diplomatic initiatives and inspection processes now underway.

“We must never forget that in Iraq as well as elsewhere, lasting and real peace depends on social justice, democracy and human rights,” the statement said. “Military action must only be a last recourse once peaceful means have been exhausted.”

India: Left Front wins in Tripura

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) this week congratulated the people of Tripura state for re-electing the party and the Left Front for a third term in office. The massive popular endorsement of the Left Front government’s record led to the Front retaining its two-thirds majority.

The Left Front government, headed by CPI(M) leader Manik Sarkar, has stood firm for preserving the unity of tribal and non-tribal peoples of the area in the face of continuous attacks by separatist and extremist forces. In its statement, the CPI(M) paid tribute to the 32 party and Left Front members and supporters who were killed for their beliefs during the election campaign.

Chile: Pinochet officers charged in car bomb killing

Five senior officers in Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s secret police have been indicted in the 1974 car bomb murder of General Carlos Prats, Pinochet’s predecessor as army chief, the Guardian reported last week. The explosion, which also killed Prats’ wife, Sofia, was allegedly the first assassination carried out by the dictatorship outside Chile.

Indicted were retired General Manuel Contreras, then-head of the secret police, his second in command and three other high-ranking officers. Lawyers said all have denied the charges. Contreras has already served a seven year sentence in the 1976 car bomb murder of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier in Washington.

Activists said the move represented a major advance in trying Pinochet’s agents for human rights crimes. “This is absolutely historic. This is about as high up as you can get without touching Pinochet himself,” said Sebastian Brett, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch in Chile.

Afghanistan: Latest U.S. bombing kills many civilians

The BBC Radio Pashto service reported last month that as many as 100 civilians were killed and more than a dozen injured during a U.S. bombing raid on the village of Wilja in Helmand Province. U.S. sources claimed they suspected that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar was hiding in the area, but the province’s governor and other officials disagreed. The provincial government put the death toll at 12, but local witnesses said hundreds of residents were killed and many homes destroyed. They also said U.S. troops had blocked the area following the raid, making it difficult to transport the injured.

Bangladesh: General strike called for March 10

An 11-party alliance has called for a nationwide general strike on March 10 to put forward a series of 12 demands, and to protest increases in transportation fares and the prices of gas, oil and cooking oil. The action also opposes the closing of the Adamjee Jute Mill, job losses and exploitation, government corruption, and conspiracy to plunder the country’s resources and sell them to transnational corporations. The parties called for upholding the democratic gains won through popular uprising in 1990, and protested the drive to war against Iraq.

Among the 11 parties are the Communist Party of Bangladesh, the Workers Party, Democratic Party, Socialist Party and the Democratic Majdoor Party.

Algeria: Gov’t workers strike vs privatization

Striking government workers shut down much of Algeria Feb. 25 to protest government privatization plans and demand better living standards. The stoppage by the 3-million member General Union of Algerian Workers completely halted public transportation and forced cancellation of most of state owned Air Algeria’s flights. Public offices and enterprises were closed. Union leaders said the strike was over 95 percent effective.

However, the strike did not include the oil and gas industry, whose exports provide almost all of the country’s foreign currency receipts, in the action. It also did not interrupt flights bringing Muslim pilgrims home from Mecca.

The union said it called the strike to pressure the government into making public more details about its plans to privatize state-run enterprises and to protest declining living standards.

International Notes are compiled by Communist Party USA International Secretary Marilyn Bechtel. She can be reached at cpusainternat@mindspring.com