Worldnotes: November 8, 2008

Greece: Labor builds toward political change

Striking workers brought schools, hospitals and transportation services — and half of Greece’s factories — to a 24 hour halt Oct. 21 as the Confederation of Greek Workers, joined by the Public Sector workers’ confederation, launched the ninth general strike in four years against the center-right New Democracy party, presently mired in land sale scandals.

With its parliamentary majority reduced to two seats, polls place New Democracy’s popular support at 27.5 percent. Workers’ parties have gained, according to Rebelion.org, with the Communist Party laying claim to 7.5 percent of the electorate. Demanding a minimum wage hike, strikers protested rising prices and privatization plans, particularly government proposals to sell off Olympic Airlines.





Brazil: Workers’ Party, allies dominate city elections

The second round of municipal elections Oct. 26 upped the number of mayors identified with President Lula da Silva’s Workers Party by 36 percent. The Democratic Movement Party and Socialist Party, each allied to the Worker’s Party, scored 13.9 and 80.4 percent increases respectively.

Opposition parties will govern in only six of Brazil’s 26 capital cities, although they include Porto Alegre and Salvador. In Sao Paulo, Workers’ Party candidate Marta Suplicy lost decisively to Democrat Party opposition candidate Gilberto Kassab who, according to Insurgente.org, gained ground as a future presidential candidate. Suplicy had been viewed as a potential successor to Lula who is constitutionally barred from running for a third term in 2010.





Benin: Poor nations want in

Speaking at a conference on African governance on Oct. 25, President Thomas Boni Yayi protested against the exclusion of poor African countries — “the victims of the current system” — from representation at a meeting of finance ministers and bankers planned for Nov. 7-9 in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

That gathering will prepare for a G-20 summit of industrialized and large developing nations a week later in Washington to deal with the world financial crisis.

Reuters also reported on African Union plans to hold a summit in Tunis Nov. 12 in conjunction with the African Development Bank, to develop an African response to the financial downturn.





Iraq: U.S. forces agreement may fail

The Iraqi government indicated last week that without amendments Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki describes as essential, it will not submit for parliamentary approval an agreement authorizing continued U.S. military occupation of Iraq. The UN mandate authorizing the U.S. troops there expires in December.

Proposed amendments would limit the U.S. stay to three years, subject off-duty U.S. soldiers to Iraqi laws and authorize inspections of incoming and outgoing U.S. military shipments. Iraq seeks to ban U.S. use of Iraqi territory to attack neighboring countries.

The Associated Press report suggests that concern expressed Oct. 29 by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani about weakened Iraqi sovereignty under the proposed treaty signifies early agreements are unlikely.





China: Partnership grows with Russia

Premier Wen Jiabao’s participation in the 13th annual bilateral prime ministers’ meeting in Moscow Oct. 27-29 testified to “enhanced mutual trust and support” and dedication to “strategic cooperation,” according to People’s Daily, newspaper of the Communist Party of China.

Talks joined by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev covered joint space projects, cooperation on border issues, high technology industrial production, shared telecommunications and scientific research. A joint communiqué highlighted trade expansion, cooperative industrial production and two-way investing.

China gained assurances of Russian deliveries of oil and natural gas. The Global Research web site reported last week that the state-controlled pipeline corporation Transneft has designed a spur into China from the pipeline delivering Siberian oil to Russia’s Pacific coast.





Cuba: General Assembly nixes blockade

“You have the force, it’s true, but we have justice,” Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told the U.S. delegate to the UN General Assembly on Oct. 29 as he introduced the 17th annual resolution condemning the U.S. economic blockade against Cuba.

This year, 185 nations sided with Cuba — up from 184 last year, 183 in 2006 and 182 in 2005. The United States, Israel, and Palau dissented.

Cuba alleged crimes of genocide and economic warfare, according to cuba-l.unm.edu. Perez Roque said losses since 1962 measured under current valuation, total $224.6 billion dollars — equivalent to losses if hurricanes Gustav and Ike arrived every year. The new U.S. president was urged to abandon attempts “to wear out the Cuban people with hunger and disease.”





World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit@roadrunner.com)