Canada: Set Wal-Mart protest for May 7

The Canadian Labor Congress has declared May 7 a day of protest outside Wal-Marts across Canada. The CLC said the actions by workers, students and community groups will raise awareness about the company’s anti-worker approach. The protest will highlight freedom of association issues and the right to bargain collectively.

After workers at its Jonquiere, Quebec store voted to form a union, Wal-Mart announced the store would close. The company has also challenged its workers’ right to organize at other Canadian stores.

Czech Republic: Defend democratic rights

The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia is calling on the people of the Czech Republic to uphold democratic rights in the face of mounting attacks on the party’s legality. In a statement last week, the party said the anticommunist campaign aims to move society toward fascism.

Earlier this month two senators in the Czech Parliament launched a campaign to change a law criminalizing national, racist, religious or class hatred, to include the phrase “supports or propagates communism, Nazism or any other similar movement.” The law specifies a five-year jail term for violators. Senators Jaromir Stetina and Martin Mejstrik have also initiated an action against Mlada Pravda (Young Truth), the monthly magazine of the Communist Youth Union, because, they said, it promotes “Leninism” and calls for a socialist revolution.

Kuwait: Women to vote

Kuwait’s Parliament has given initial approval to a law that would allow women to vote for the first time and to run in municipal council elections, BBC News said. The bill must pass a second reading and be signed by the country’s ruler, Sheikh Jaber al Ahmed al Sabah. The sheikh supports the measure, but past efforts have been blocked by Parliament, with representatives of the country’s tribes leading the opposition.

Municipal elections are expected in the next six months.

Women’s rights activist Rola Dashti called the April 19 vote “a first step,” and expressed the hope that women would soon also participate in Parliament.

Under current law, only men over age 21 who are not in the police or military can vote.

Nicaragua: ‘Week of action’ vs. CAFTA

During a Week of Action against the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), hundreds of Nicaraguans marched April 14 in Managua to protest President Enrique Bolanos’ pressure for CAFTA’s ratification. Organizers said CAFTA would swamp the country’s small and medium agricultural producers with competition from U.S. agribusiness giants.

Nicaragua Network’s Weekly News Update said thousands of people also rallied April 16 in Ticuantepe, near Managua, against the treaty. Former president Daniel Ortega, now general secretary of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), said the pact will cause “a real social earthquake” by putting “thousands of agricultural producers” out of work.

Southern Africa: AIDS devastates farm workers

AIDS could kill 20 percent of southern Africa’s agricultural workers by 2020, possibly threatening food production in a region already facing frequent shortages, the South African publication Business Report said last week.

“It’s not as simple as to say there will be a one-fifth reduction of the crop,” HIV/AIDS expert Smangaliso Hllengwa told a conference in Durban on AIDS and food security. “But it’s obviously going to have a significant impact.” The UN Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that 25 percent of farm workers will die by 2025, based on national HIV infection rates and local surveys.

Observers also warn of the dire economic consequences to families whose breadwinners have died of the disease.

Indonesia: Sailors protest U.S. security rules

The Indonesian union Kesatuan Pelaut Indonesia is urging the government to act immediately against a U.S. security clampdown that could bar sailors from 25 countries from leaving their ships while at U.S. seaports, the International Transport Workers’ Federation said last week. The union, representing over 18,000 seafarers working on ships that regularly sail to the U.S., says foreign shippers plan to replace Indonesian seamen to avoid problems at U.S. ports.

The Bush administration calls the countries, including Indonesia, “high security risks.” The administration says the U.S. Coast Guard Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will decide whether a foreign crewmember is allowed to leave a ship when it arrives in a U.S. port.

World Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel ( Julia Lutsky and Walter Tillow contributed to this week’s notes.