Poland: Troops to come home from Iraq

Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said last week that Poland’s 1,700 soldiers will come home from Iraq when the UN mandate for the stabilization mission ends at the close of this year, according to the BBC. Szmajdzinski emphasized that the government of Prime Minister Marek Belka is carrying out “an exit strategy” and will not make new troop commitments.

He added that the pullout was based on financial considerations as well as an assessment of the security situation.

With parliamentary elections coming up in October, the current government is trailing in opinion polls, and observers say the Iraq mission is unpopular.

Italy has also said it wants to withdraw its 3,000 troops as soon as possible, and the Netherlands and Ukraine have already started phased withdrawals.

Brazil: WTO elections ‘lack transparency’

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim last week criticized the “lack of transparency” in the selection of the new General Director of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and commented on the elimination of Brazilian candidate Luis Seixas Correa.

Member countries present a preference list, and the candidate considered less capable of obtaining a consensus is eliminated, as happened to Seixas Correa at the WTO’s April 15 meeting.

Prensa Latina said that while Amorim didn’t question the confidentiality of the voting, he criticized the council’s failure to announce the voting data or the method used to calculate the results.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry said Seixas Correa’s candidacy had been based on advocating for a more democratic and transparent WTO, more capable of reflecting the different realities present in today’s world. The Ministry said Brazil will continue to uphold these principles and will work to strengthen multilateralism in commerce.

Haiti: U.S. ships arms to provisional gov’t

Despite a 13-year-old arms embargo on Haiti, the U.S. is shipping arms to Haiti’s U.S.-imposed government, says a new study by the Small Arms Survey of the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies.

The study’s author, Robert Muggah, reports the U.S. sold a large batch of automatic weapons, pistols and ammunition worth $7 million to the Haitian National Police (HNP) in November 2004. According to human rights groups, the HNP has been conducting a brutal campaign of repression against supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas Party. Party leaders say that police and paramilitary squads have killed 10,000 of their supporters and jailed 1,000 since the U.S. deposed Aristide on Feb. 29, 2004, and imposed a handpicked government led by longtime Florida businessman Gerard Latortue.

“Despite the presence of arms sanctions, the U.S. has been by far the biggest supplier of both legal and covert weapons since the 1980s,” Muggah wrote. The U.S. even transferred arms to the Haitian Army after it overthrew elected President Aristide in 1991.

The report, “Securing Haiti’s Transition: Reviewing Human Insecurity and the Prospects for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration,” is available at www.smallarmssurvey.org.

Sudan: Southern peace accord moving slowly

Three months after Sudan’s government and the southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army reached a peace accord, analysts are worried about lack of progress in enforcing the pact and forming an interim constitution, the UN’s IRIN news agency said.

After 21 years of civil war in southern Sudan, the two sides signed a comprehensive peace accord on Jan. 9.

“This peace has to be accompanied by action, and this action has to be sustained with both human and material resources,” said Bishop Caesar Mazzolari of Rumbek Catholic Diocese in an April 8 interview. Mazzolari cited the need for resources to develop health centers, water sources and schools, and to support teachers and hospital workers.

Other observers said the two sides were close to agreement on a draft interim constitution but a Constitutional Review Commission had yet to be formed, though it is slated to hold its first meeting April 23.

Pakistan: Workers win union recognition

Unions affiliated with the All Pakistan Trade Union Federation (APTUF) recently won recognition in two key factories, the union announced April 12. At Escort Meters Ltd., a large manufacturer of electric meters, a majority of the 1,000 workers voted for the Escort Meter Workers Union despite management’s concerted campaign to swing the election to a “company” union.

In another vote, Capital Industry’s 600 employees voted for the APTUF-affiliated Workers Union despite the presence of two “company” unions.

At an election victory rally by workers and neighborhood residents, APTUF General Secretary Gulzar Ahmed Chaudhary said that now a new era was starting, with fair wages, dignity, respect and all basic rights. Other speakers said the workers won despite the money spent by management and the obstacles it placed in the way of organizing.

World Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (mbechtel@pww.org). Julia Lutsky and Tim Pelzer contributed to this week’s notes.