World AIDS Day: More vigorous fight-back stressed

As millions around the globe marked World AIDS Day last Sunday, the Chinese government launched a new national campaign in which a million students will travel throughout the countryside, educating people about the disease and fighting discrimination against its victims.

In South Africa, former President Nelson Mandela called the fear and stigma associated with the disease almost as damaging as the epidemic itself. ‘It is your duty to be human,’ he said. ‘Show them care, support and, above all, love.’ Deputy President Jacob Zuma declared, ‘We are all living with the disease and are affected by it in many ways.’

British officials warned the country will likely see new HIV cases increase by 20 percent this year. ‘We are moving in the wrong direction and that is extremely worrying,’ said infectious disease expert Dr. Barry Evans.

Venezuela: ‘Strike’ largely ignored

Media reports from around Venezuela showed thousands of workers and businesspeople ignoring opposition calls for a general strike Monday against the government of President Hugo Chavez.

AP reported angry consumers protesting outside closed shops, and regional business groups saying they could not afford to lose holiday sales. The BBC said public transport was running in Caracas, while shops and businesses were open in many parts of the city – the exception being middle and upper class areas.

Labor Minister Maria Cristina Iglesias said industries producing 85 percent of the country’s gross domestic product were working. The government-owned oil company said operations were normal, contradicting claims that production had been curtailed. ‘Everybody’s working as normal. I don’t support the strike,’ refinery worker Manuel Madero told AP. ‘If we did strike, it just hurts the country.’

Britain: Firefighters suspend strike, warn of new actions

Firefighters called off a new eight-day strike set to start Dec. 4, after the British conciliation service proposed holding new talks in the prolonged labor dispute. But the union’s leaders warned that unless an agreement is reached, the 55,000 member Fire Brigades Union would carry out the next eight-day strike, planned to start Dec. 16.

Union leader Andy Gilchrist said the government had ‘ensured and provoked’ an earlier eight-day strike that ended Nov. 30, and was ‘prepared to play with people’s lives.’ Firefighters are demanding a 40 percent pay increase and struck over an initial offer of four percent. During the labor actions, Britain’s armed forces have taken over firefighting duties.

Iraq: CP will not join opposition conference

A leader of the Iraqi Communist Party said last week the CP will not participate in the ‘Opposition Conference’ to be held in London this month. ‘The proper way to convene such a conference is through direct consultations among Iraqi patriotic opposition forces, without interference or patronage from any foreign quarters,’ said Hameed Majid Mousa, secretary of the ICP’s Central Committee.

The ICP leader added, ‘Salvation from the dictatorial regime is our cause and the cause of the Iraq people, and it does not make sense to ignore this and to pin hopes on American war, American invasion and American ‘liberation.’’ He called the ICP’s exclusion from conference preparations ‘a political stance,’ and emphasized that the party’s decision not to attend the conference itself would not affect the ICP’s bilateral relations with many of the forces planning to participate.

Haiti: Opposition fires on pro-gov’t demonstration

At least two demonstrators were seriously injured last week when individuals said to be part of the anti-government Democratic Convergence fired on a demonstration in Port-au-Prince by tens of thousands of workers, students, members of grassroots neighborhood organizations, parliamentarians and others in support of the Lavalas government of President Aristide.

Protesters expressed their concern that Haiti is under threat by local and international forces blocking the country’s economic and social development, and vowed their support to the popularly elected Aristide government. The U.S.-led financial embargo against Haiti, now in its second year, has resulted in the withholding of millions of dollars committed to Haiti by international financial institutions. Critics charge the embargo has left the island’s 8 million people lacking basic health care, education and critical infrastructure.

Czech Republic: Farmers protest EU discrimination

Farmers from all over the Czech Republic held a mass demonstration in Prague Oct. 29, to express their anger over the European Union’s discriminatory policies concerning farm subsidies. The protesters turned over petitions with 100,000 signatures to Agriculture Minister Jaroslav Palas before marching to the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

The farmers were demanding immediate financial aid, cancellation of debts and negotiation of the same terms and conditions as farmers in other European Union countries. They said the EU’s discriminatory terms of entry, setting subsidies at 25 percent of those received by existing EU members, would mean liquidation for many farmers.