International news briefs


Unionists arrested in Malawi

Police arrested more trade union leaders in the southern African country of Malawi as a wages strike by public servants entered its third week on April 21. The latest unionists arrested were from the country's north, including one who was "plucked naked at gunpoint from his bed", said Francis Antonio, secretary of the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions. Six other leaders from the south and centre were detained, then released, earlier in the month.

Protests in French Guiana

Demonstrations continue in France's South American colony, French Guiana, as the campaign for the release of jailed student activists gathers pace. On April 24, hundreds of demonstrators held a vigil outside the police headquarters and blocked streets in the capital, Cayenne. Police attacked the demonstrators, who then fought back, some with firearms.

The protesters are demanding the release of nine opposition activists, trade union leaders and others detained earlier this month by the government in connection with protests last November.

Zimbabwe students attacked by police

Truckloads of riot policemen stormed the University of Zimbabwe, tear-gassing hostels and lecture theatres, to stop a planned protest march into Harare on April 24. Students fought running battles with riot cops.

About 3000 students planned to march into town to protest against a new regulation under which they have to pay 50% of their tuition, board and lodging. Previously, the state had covered students' entire university costs, requiring them to repay half the sum after graduation.

45,000 march for peace in Kurdistan

A crowd estimated at 45,000 demonstrated in the German city of Dusseldorf on April 26 to demand a peaceful solution to the conflict in Kurdistan. Speakers urged Germany to put pressure on Turkey to negotiate with Kurdish groups, including the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is waging a guerilla war for independence.

Anniversary of Dominican invasion

Protesters marked the 32nd anniversary of the US invasion of the Dominican Republic by rallying outside the US embassy. President Lyndon Johnson sent 40,000 soldiers to the Caribbean country on April 28, 1965, after leftists in the Dominican army rebelled against a military regime in an attempt to return President Juan Bosch to power.

The democratically elected president had been ousted in a military coup in September 1963. The US troops remained for more than a year and kept Bosch out of power.

Privatisation violence in Brazil

Demonstrators protesting against the privatisation of the state-owned mining company Comanhia Vale de Rio Doce on April 29 were attacked by police outside the stock exchange in Rio de Janeiro. Eleven protesters and eight journalists were injured. An auction of the company was due to start that morning.

President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said the government would proceed regardless of opposition. Peasant groups, trade unions, sections of the military and two former presidents have opposed the sale of the profitable company, which controls much of Brazil's mineral wealth.

N-leak in Japan

In Japan another reactor was shut down on April 29 after it began leaking radioactivity. Gauges measured leakage 20 times the "normal" level of radioactivity. The plant, owned by the private Tokyo Electric Power Company, is located in Fukushima prefecture, 200 kilometres from Tokyo.

Gold mine protest

On April 22, 5000 villagers and environmentalists who occupied the Bergama gold mine site in Turkey for 10 hours forced the Izmar provincial governor to suspend the mine's operations for one month.
Bergama, 50 kilometres north of the Aegean port city of Izmar, attracts thousands of tourists who come to visit the spectacular ancient ruins, now threatened by the mine. Residents from nearby villages also fear the cyanide used in the mining process, to begin in November, will pollute the environment around Bergama.
The provincial governor said he would relay the villagers' concerns to the central government in Ankara, which has approved the mine. "The struggle has not ended yet", said Noyan Ozkan, a lawyer representing the villagers. Residents are suing mining company Eurogold in a bid to stop the mine and are demanding that the Turkish government call a nationwide referendum on the project.
Residents of the Bergama area unanimously voted against mining with cyanide in an informal referendum in January, but company officials said the vote was illegal.