Bolivian Indian second for presidency
With virtually all votes counted in Bolivia’s presidential election, Evo Morales, an Aymara Indian, holds second place out of 11 candidates, with nearly 21 percent of votes. Former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, owner of the country’s largest mining company, leads with nearly 22.5 percent. Since no candidate won a majority,

Congress must choose between the top two vote-getters before the Aug. 6 presidential inauguration. Morales’ party, Movement toward Socialism, is now the second largest in both houses of the legislature.

Morales won in three of the country’s nine provinces, and leads in a fourth. He seeks to nationalize Bolivia’s industries and stop payments on its foreign debt. He also seeks to stop the U.S.-financed program to end coca production, most of which he says is used for traditional purposes – chewed as a stimulant and to quell hunger by the Aymara and Quechua cultures.

Toronto city workers continue strike
As the week began, over 21,000 Toronto city workers remained off the job in the biggest municipal employees’ strike in Canadian history.

Saying the main issue is job security, the city workers’ union, CUPE, wants the city to promise that workers won’t lose jobs to private contractors. “City politicians seem determined to go down the road of contracting out and privatization of dozens of services in this city,” said CUPE National President July D’Arcy.

Nearly 7,000 workers started their job action late last month. Last week they were joined by almost 15,000 more. Another 3,000 workers are deemed essential, and thus can’t strike.

China pledges to support Palestinians
During a four-day visit to the Middle East late last month, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Yang Wenchang met with Palestinian National Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. Yang reaffirmed China’s support for the establishment of a Palestinian state, and said regional peace and security cannot be achieved without restoring the Palestinian people’s legal rights.

Yang expressed his country’s appreciation for the PNA’s emphasis on peace talks, and the peace initiatives of the Arab Summit, and said that, within its ability, China will continue to provide moral support and economic assistance for the Palestinian people’s cause.

Italian unions plan strikes

Italy’s largest union federation, the left-led CGIL, launched a series of rolling strikes this week to protest the government’s plan to make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to fire new workers. The rotating four-hour strikes of transport workers were slated to involve ferry workers on Monday, rail workers on Tuesday, public transport workers on Thursday and airport workers on Friday.

Two other national labor federations, CISL and UIL, have agreed to the government’s proposals. In April, all three federations held Italy’s largest general strike in two decades to protest the government’s drive to weaken workers’ legal protections.

Two S. Korean unionists freed
Il-seup Kim and Sungga Kim, president and vice president of the Daewoo autoworkers union, were freed this week after serving only 6 months of a 5 year prison term. Their release came within days after the June 27 International Day of Action to free jailed South Korean unionists, sponsored by the International Metalworkers Federation and endorsed by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unionists (ICFTU).

ICFTU Trade Union Rights representative Janek Kuczkiewicz called the release “an important step,” but said the continuing imprisonment of dozens of unionists shows the need to keep up the pressure.

Egyptian child labor criticized
The World Organization against Torture reports that in violation of Egypt’s labor laws, children as young as 12 are being exploited as farm workers, as social and economic conditions for poor working-class families have deteriorated. Over 1.5 million children are working often as much as 12 hours a day, six days per week, for an average wage of about $9 per day – of which labor contractors take as much as $6 in commission.

Children face hazards including pesticide exposure, and road accidents to trucks transporting large numbers of workers in crowded, unsafe conditions. Dozens of children have been killed and large numbers more injured, in such accidents.

Egyptian law bars employment of children younger than 14, though 12- to 14-year-olds can receive vocational training from employers and participate in seasonal agricultural work provided the work is not hazardous. Additionally, the work day is limited to six hours.

The World Organization against Torture is urging that messages be sent to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak,, calling for an end to illegal recruitment of under-age workers and investigation into the conditions of their labor.