100,000 rally for Chavez

Over 100,000 people gathered in Caracas, Venezuela, June 29 to back President Hugo Chavez’ “peaceful and democratic revolution.”

“All these people are here to show their support for the revolution and let the opposition know that efforts to topple Chavez will fail,” said Caracas subway worker Fernando Guarate.

In April, Chavez was restored to office after a brief U.S.-aided coup, when poor working-class Venezuelans filled the streets to demand his return. “We don’t have a war agenda, we don’t want war,” Chavez told the rally. “We want justice and peace.”

Said street peddler Ismelda Rios, “We aren’t going to let the opposition push Chavez out of power. He was elected democratically, and those opposing him must respect that.”

Demand to free jailed S. Korean unionists

In downtown Seoul last week, over 1,000 unionists rallied and marched to free jailed South Korean trade unionists. The action was part of the International Day of Action for the Release of Imprisoned Trade Unionists in Korea, sponsored by the International Metalworkers Federation and the Public Services International, and endorsed by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

This year alone, 92 unionists were imprisoned. Currently 52 are jailed, including Korean Confederation of Trade Unions president Dan Byung-ho. Thousands more face other forms of legal action, and many have lost their jobs for forming a union in their workplace.

Among sites of other actions: Belgium, Switzerland, Japan, Malaysia, Germany, Pakistan, India, the Netherlands and Thailand.

Protest foreign investment in India’s media

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) last week expressed “strong opposition” to the government’s decision to allow foreign direct investment in the country’s print media. The CPI(M) said the cabinet had disregarded the recommendation of the Parliament’s Standing Committee on information technology when it decided to allow 26 percent direct foreign investment in non-news and non-current affairs journals.

“This decision will endanger our national interest and the sovereignty of the country,” the CPI(M) said. “Multinationals will be able to distort and stifle public opinion and weaken the democratic polity in the country.”

The CPI(M) noted that the U.S. and other western countries do not allow foreign investment in their print media.

Argentina police killings draw big protest

Thousands poured into the streets of Buenos Aires last week to protest the police killings of two unarmed and peaceful demonstrators June 26. Three officers have been arrested and another 100 suspended after the city’s press published photos clearly showing police responsible for the attack. The police had claimed “infiltrators” caused the shooting deaths.

President Eduardo Duhalde, whose administration has been targeted by waves of demonstrations against government repression and IMF/World Bank austerity policies, called the killings “an atrocity.” His administration has pledged there will be no immunity for the killers.

One in four Argentine workers is unemployed, and half the people can no longer buy basic food and clothing.

Georgian workers say TNCs flout standards

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and its Georgian affiliate, the Georgian Trade Union Amalgamation (GTUA) demonstrated at the headquarters of the energy industry last week to protest growing wage arrears of 10 to 15 months that have the workers on the verge of starvation.

Since the government privatized the energy sector, wage arrears have worsened. In January the Spanish firm “Iberdrola” was given the right to manage the energy sector for 5 years. Management of some energy functions was also turned over to an Irish company, ESB International, a move that resulted in mass dismissals.

“In the last years the overall energy production has collapsed,” said GTUA President Irakli Tugushi. “This situation is outright catastrophic, both for the energy sector and for the future of Georgia.”

German phone workers win pay hike

Last week the 120,000 Deutsche Telekom workers won a 4.1 percent pay increase this year and 3.2 percent next year. As the last round of talks started June 27, some 10,000 workers staged warning strikes.

Chief union negotiator Ruediger Schultze said it was difficult for the union to accept the latest offer – the union had sought 6.5 percent this year -– but the talks had achieved the main aim of a “decent wage increase.”

IG Metall workers won a 4 percent hike in May, and construction workers won raises of 3.2 percent this year and 2.4 more in 2003.