Russia: Autoworkers build independent union

An independent union is taking root at a 4-year-old Ford assembly plant on the outskirts of St. Petersburg. Alexei Etmanov, a welder, attended a union conference in Brazil last year where he learned that Brazilian wages for autoworkers are 30 percent higher than in Russia.

On his return, Etmanov recruited 1,000 workers out of a workforce of 1,800. The union demanded a 30 percent wage hike and won a 17 percent increase, Moscow Times said July 24.

Together with union leaders at three other auto factories, Etmanov has been working to build an independent national autoworkers’ union. Recruiting is underway at Toyota, Volkswagen, GM, and Nissan factories in Russia, where Canadian writer David Mandel says the labor movement is “weak, almost nonexistent.” Foreign carmakers have been attracted to Russia because of low labor costs.

Haiti: Rights abuses common, donors fall short

A new human rights report by the University of Miami School of Law finds that the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah) has failed to protect human rights. Investigators found that judges too often bowed to outside pressures in failing to release from jail prisoners who were innocent or uncharged. The report, available at, noted that government officials and private gunmen continue blocking the press from monitoring police abuses.

At a July donors’ meeting representatives of the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Union and the U.S. Agency for International Development pledged $750 million to reconstruct Haiti’s infrastructure and to strengthen the country’s judicial system and police force. Haiti is asking for $7 billion towards long-term projects.

On June 22, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) introduced H Res 888 into Congress, to cancel Haiti’s entire $1.4 billion debt.

India: Prime minister objects to meddling with nuclear deal

Reports that Congress is discussing new conditions for the India-U.S nuclear cooperation program finalized by President Bush in March prompted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare that changes would nullify the agreement. Although foreign relations committees of both the Senate and House have approved it, Congress is deliberating over additions such as annual reviews.

Under the plan, India would obtain U.S. nuclear technology primarily for energy production, and nuclear weapons sites there would be off limits to inspection. The BBC said July 26 that by 2050, India plans to supply a quarter of its electricity needs through nuclear power.

Critics point out that India has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told reporters the plan would let India divert domestic uranium to nuclear weapons production. Vice President Cheney has called the agreement “one of the most important strategic foreign policy initiatives” for the Bush administration. Analysts suggest that China may be the ultimate target.

East Timor: Border accord signed, Australian troops stay

In the wake of conflict last May that brought in Australian troops as so-called peacemakers, Jose Ramos-Horta has replaced Mari Alkatiri as Prime Minister in East Timor. In one of his first acts, Ramos-Horta met last week in Jakarta with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to sign a border agreement reached last September.

In East Timor, Australian troops arrested Major Alfredo Reinado and 20 others, although Reinado had been the first rebel leader in June to hand in weapons. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told the BBC July 26 that departure for the remaining 2,500 Australian troops “is going to depend very much on the situation on the ground.”

The Guardian, newspaper of the Australian CP, alleges that Australia’s conservative government, with interests in East Timor’s offshore oil reserves, worked behind the scenes to remove Mari Alkatiri.

Ramos Horta will serve until elections in May 2007.

Peru: Congress of indigenous leaders raps market rule

The first Congress of the Andean Coordinating Group of Indigenous Organizations convened in Cuzco, Peru, July 15-17. Indigenous leaders from Peru, Colombia, Guatemala and Chile discussed problems of exploitation of natural resources, privatization, and free trade agreements.

Humberto Cholango, from Colombia, observed that the Colombian constitution was silent on the right to land. In Chile, fishermen of the Mapuche nation have to pay for the use of ports.

A report on the congress from the Red Voltaire web site said self-determination and resistance to neoliberalism were the dominant themes.

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney (