Haiti: Members of Congress write Bush

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and 28 other members of Congress are calling on President Bush to urge Haiti’s interim government to immediately and unconditionally release Father Gerard Jean-Juste from prison in Haiti.

Calling the Catholic priest “a courageous advocate for peace and human rights in Haiti,” their letter said he has “always spoken out forcefully against all forms of violence.”

Father Jean-Juste was arrested July 21 while attending the funeral of murdered journalist Jacques Roche. Haitian police claimed he was arrested because a “public clamor” at the funeral accused him of murdering Roche, though Jean-Juste was in Miami at the time. The outspoken priest has campaigned at home and abroad for the release of political prisoners, restoration of the constitutional order and the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He was arrested last November and held for 48 days until an international campaign brought about his release.

China: Unsafe mines sharply criticized

“The Daxing Mine disaster of Aug. 7 that left at least 123 workers trapped underground demonstrates that we have not learned our lesson despite the string of deadly mining accidents over the last few years,” said a column reprinted last week in People’s Daily Online, published by the Communist Party of China.

The column, originally in China Daily, said the mine was operating though the Guangdong provincial government had suspended all local mine production following a July 14 tragedy that killed 14 miners.

Many local governments look to coal mines for significant revenue and tend to ignore safety concerns, the column said, while mine owners expect to be shielded by their local governments.

“It is true that China depends on coal for two-thirds of its energy consumption … but growth should not be fueled by casting aside the rights and even lives of miners. No one should presume that loss of life is unavoidable in the pursuit of economic growth.”

The column urged severe punishment for government officials and mine owners who violate safety laws, as well as much more stringent government enforcement of safety standards.

Britain: Strike supports catering workers

Hundreds of baggage handlers and other ground crew members struck Aug. 11 in support of fired catering workers. As many as 300,000 passengers were affected when flights were canceled or delayed.

British Airways head Sir Rod Eddington reportedly plans to cancel Gate Gourmet’s contract when it comes up for renewal next year.

The crisis erupted Aug. 10, when the U.S.-owned Gate Gourmet catering firm abruptly fired 670 employees who refused to work after the company hired 130 casual workers without telling the union. Some 70 percent of the fired catering workers are Asian women. At press time, efforts by the Transport and General Workers Union to win the workers’ reinstatement and a raise in pay were still under way.

S. Africa: Probe farm workers’ eviction

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is investigating the plight of 30 workers evicted from an Eastern Cape farm where they had lived for over 20 years, the Port Elizabeth Herald said last week.

The workers’ homes were destroyed without warning by the farm’s new owner, a Canadian national, said Sakhele Poswa of the SAHRC. Since then, Poswa said, they have been living in makeshift zinc and wood structures under appalling conditions, having lost their livelihood as well as their homes.

“We are preparing to fight for their restitution,” Poswa said. “These people must be brought back to the farm and in terms of the law no one must be evicted without a court order.”

The South African government is moving to step up the redistribution of land to the landless and has been urged to consider restricting foreign ownership of land, the Herald said.

Chile: Pinochet kin charged with tax evasion

Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s wife and younger son were arrested last week and charged as accomplices in a tax evasion case linked to an investigation into the former dictator’s multimillion-dollar fortune overseas, The Associated Press said.

Luica Hiriart and Marco Antonio Pinochet were charged in connection with a probe into Pinochet’s overseas financial holdings. Their lawyer said he would appeal the charges.

Pinochet has not only been stripped of his immunity in the financial case, but was also stripped last month of the immunity he had granted himself from prosecution over the murder and torture of thousands during his dictatorship, opening the way for legal action in those cases.

World Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (mbechtel@pww.org). Brian McAfee contributed to this week’s notes.