International notes

Britain: Train drivers refuse war cargo

Two train drivers last week refused to move a freight train carrying ammunition thought to be destined for British forces being deployed in the Persian Gulf. The two – the only drivers at the Motherwell freight depot – refused to run the train between the Glasgow area and the Glan Douglass base on Scotland’s west coast, because they oppose British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s threat to join the U.S. in attacking Iraq.

Railway executives urged rail union leaders to press the drivers to undertake the run, but the union – like the majority of British public opinion – opposes a possible war against Iraq.

The last such action by British workers was the 1973 strike by dockers who refused to load British-made arms destined for Chile after the coup that destroyed the Popular Unity government.





Iraq: ‘Confidential’ UN document cites humanitarian crisis

A “strictly confidential” United Nations document, prepared to aid contingency planning in the event of war with Iraq, predicts high civilian injuries, grave worsening of the current nutritional crisis, and “the outbreak of diseases in epidemic if not pandemic proportions.” The document, “Likely Humanitarian Scenarios,” dated Dec. 10, 2002, was first reported in the London Times on Dec. 23. It is now publicly accessible at www.casi.org.uk/info/undocs/war021210.pdf.

It predicts that up to half a million people could be directly or indirectly injured. Some 900,000 refugees will need aid, and 2 million people will need shelter. Over 3 million people will need “therapeutic feeding,” including over 2 million already malnourished children under five and one million pregnant women.

The document says the situation is complicated by the sanctions imposed on Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War, which have made 60 percent of the population totally dependent on government food rations.





Venezuela: Transport workers won’t strike

Following rumors that Venezuela’s transport workers might join the business-led strike against popularly elected President Hugo Chavez, National Transport Commission President Jose Enrique Betancourt assured the government that the transport section will continue to work as usual.

Betancourt said the workers will not join any strike action because they see it as a political protest and contrary to the interests of the transport sector. He also sent best wishes to the transport workers responsible for maintaining gasoline supplies, calling them “heroes” working in the interests of the whole country.

Meanwhile, on Sunday Chavez denounced the opposition’s constant attacks on Cuba. “We sell oil to Cuba on the same terms as to other Caribbean nations, we do not donate anything,” he said. “It would be more accurate to say Cuba donates a lot to us.” Chavez referred to free medical treatment in Cuba for thousands of Venezuelan patients.





Haiti: Aristide urges release of loan funds

At a Christmastime dinner at the National Palace for hundreds of the country’s poor, Haitian President Bertrand Aristide deplored the U.S.-led freeze of $500 million in previously approved aid and loans for his country, observing that if the aid were not blocked, “the holiday would be more beautiful for the Haitian people in general and the poorest Haitians in particular.”

Aristide denounced maneuvers he said were orchestrated by the political opposition together with sectors of the international community, to maintain the poorest Haitians in a state of misery. He urged opposition political leaders to change their behavior towards this social stratum that also deserves respect and consideration.





Canada: Kyoto Climate Protocol ratified

Canada’s Parliament voted last month to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, bringing the treaty to limit greenhouse gases one step closer to coming into force. The Protocol will become law when at least 55 countries, covering at least 55 percent of 1990 greenhouse gas emissions, have ratified it.

Canada’s action brings the total to 98 countries, covering 40.7 pecent of greenhouse emissions. Russia’s ratification, expected this June, would result in the pact becoming effective globally. The Bush administration continues to reject the treaty.





Italy: Police faked evidence vs. Genoa protesters

Transcripts of an inquiry into police actions at the 2001 Genoa G8 summit have confirmed that police admitted planting two gasoline bombs at a school anti-globalization protesters were using as a dormitory. The bombs were the pretext for a July 22, 2001 police raid during which 93 people were arrested and 72 of them injured – all later released without charge.

Demonstrators said police beat them with clubs, smashed windows, and wrecked computers during the raid.

At least 77 police officers have been investigated for alleged brutality, and three police chiefs have been moved to other jobs.

“Now that the investigation into the G8 events is drawing to a close,” said Italy’s TV channel, Rai Uno, “suspected truths which had already emerged are being officially confirmed.”





International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel, Communist Party USA international secretary. She can be reached at cpusainternat@mindspring.com