International News

GLW Issue 1053

With the support of all of the political parties in Dublin's parliament (the Dail), a May 22 referendum on same-sex marriage could bring official state recognition for Ireland’s gay community and their relationships for the first time.

Homosexuality in Ireland was decriminalised in 1993. The referendum could mark a further break from a culture which has for decades forced LGBTI members to live covertly or suppress their identity entirely.

The referendum has been opposed by most, though not all, of Ireland’s clergy. Polls have shown strong opposition among Ireland’s oldest age groups.

A special May Day conference was convened on May 1 and 2 by the five trade unions affiliated to the Right2Water campaign, which is leading the huge struggle against water charges in Ireland.

The conference discussed a set of core principles that will underpin a “Platform for Renewal”, with the aim to unite left and progressive forces before the next general election.

Britain's May 7 elections revealed the deep divides emerging in British society and offered the promise of a constitutional crisis and social struggles to come.

Most commentators had expected the result to be a hung parliament; polls had consistently shown the Conservative (Tory) and Labour parties to be neck and neck.

In Scotland, the polls pointed to a wipe-out of the previously dominant Labour Party, with the Scottish National Party (SNP) poised to make sweeping gains on a platform of opposing austerity and Trident nuclear weapons.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa announced on May 16 that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) will provide assistance to the thousands of Asian immigrants stranded off the coast of Thailand.

“This world is crazy, it shows a total disregard for human life to have people stranded on a boat, dying of starvation without being allowed to get off the boat,” Correa stated during his weekly presidential address.


Protest at Kentex factory, Valenzuela City, Metro Manila, May 15. Photo: Partido Lakas ng Masa/Facebook.

Revelations have continued emerging over safety and labour abuses at the Philippines factory where 72 people died in a fire on May 13.

“Greece avoided another financial crisis by paying about €500 million in wages to public sector workers, but suffered another downgrade of its credit rating,” The Guardian on May 16.

The payment came with Greece's SYRIZA-led government, that is seeking to break with austerity, locked in difficult talks with its creditors. Greece is seeking to release €7.2 billion in bailout funds to avoid a default and exit from the eurozone.

The United States was criticised for its human rights standards on May 12 after the country's compliance with international human rights standards were assessed by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR).

The UN criticised the US for police violence, racial discrimination, torture, use of the death penalty, and Guantanamo Bay prison, among other issues.

In the United States Senate, Republicans eventually reached a deal on May 13 with a group of Senate Democrats over a bill that Democrats had unanimously rejected a day earlier, TeleSUR English said that day. It grants special “fast-track” powers to President Barack Obama to negotiate key free trade agreements.

Mexican gov't blocks investigation over missing students


Demonstrators demanding justice in the case of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students. Photo: Clayton Conn/TeleSUR.

The lawyer representing the parents and relatives of 43 missing Ayotzinapa students criticised the Mexican government on May 14 for stopping a meeting between experts from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and army officials.

It is a point of honour for the Venezuelan government that despite the sharp plunge in oil prices and acute shortages of goods, President Nicolas Maduro has ruled out austerity measures.

In a recent TV interview with former vice president Jose Vicente Rangel, Venezuelan Central Bank president Nelson Merentes explained why, saying: “Do you remember what happened on February 27, 1989?”


Photo: TeleSUR/Rael Mora.

A three-day general strike against the Tia Maria mining project of transnational Southern Copper Corporation in the southern region of Arequipa in Peru was launched on May 12.

Chile has been hit by another round of protests by student groups demanding substantial reforms to the country’s education system.

Two student activists were killed in Chile on May 14 amid nationwide protests. The two students were shot in the city of Valparaiso, near the Plaza Victoria, at the end of a huge rally. Local media said both students were gunned down by a Valparaiso store owner as they attempted to hang a banner over his shop.

Two months after‭ ‬19-year-old Black teenager Tony Robinson was fatally shot by Madison police officer Matt Kenny,‭ ‬Wisconsin prosecutors announced on May‭ ‬12‭ ‬that Kenny would not face criminal charges over the shooting.‭

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Madison in the immediate aftermath,‭ Socialist Worker ‬said on May‭ ‬14,‭ ‬with more protests‭ ‬planned.

A commentator for the mainstream Barcelona daily La Vanguardia reported on May 9 on a conversation he overheard in a lift between two “executives of a certain age”.

They were talking about an opinion poll giving the radical, movement-based ticket Barcelona Together the lead in the March 24 election for Barcelona City Council.

Executive A: “Have you seen that [incumbent Barcelona mayor Xavier] Trias is losing?”

Executive B: “Yes, [lead candidate for Barcelona Together Ada] Colau is winning.”

In an atypical move in cases of police killings of unarmed African Americans,‭ ‬six police officers in Baltimore have been charged with serious crimes over the‭ ‬death of‭ ‬25-year-old African American man Freddie Gray last month.

Baltimore state attorney Marilyn Mosby announced the charges on May‭ ‬1,‭ ‬which include second-degree murder against one officer.

"After international pressure, today the Indonesian President has claimed that all foreign journalists are now free to report in West Papua without travel restrictions,” the BBC reported on May 11.

“This is historic news as for 50 years the Indonesian government has banned foreign journalists from entering West Papua."

A global day of action on April 29 featured protests in several cities that called on the Indonesian government to allow free and open access into occupied West Papua for international journalists, humanitarian agencies and human rights groups.

Already struggling to cope with the devastation caused by the April 25 earthquake that measured 7.8 on the Moment Magnitude Scale, Nepal was hit on May 12 by a major aftershock with a magnitude of 7.3 MMS. By May 14, there had been 158 aftershocks.

The May 12 aftershock appears to have killed far fewer people than the initial quake, but the combined death toll is more than 9000 and rising. Most casualties have been in Nepal but there have also been deaths in India, Bangladesh and Tibet.

GLW Issue 1052

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on April 25. By May 1, 120 aftershocks had occurred. The death toll had passed 7800 by May 8 and will almost certainly reach 10,000 or more, as information trickles in from the rural areas. More than 16,000 people are injured and this number will also rise.

Khury Petersen-Smith is a 32-year-old African American activist based in Boston, who is actively involved in the growing “Black Lives matter” struggle sweeping the US.

I was able to speak with Petersen-Smith, a member of the International Socialist Organization, at the Marxism 2015 conference organised by Socialist Alternative in Melbourne over Easter, at which he was a featured guest.

Protests have rocked the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, after African-American man Freddie Gray died in police custody.

Gray was stopped by police while chatting with a friend in broad daylight. After being arrested Gray's spinal cord was broken, and after being in a coma he later died. Baltimore City's Police Department admitted responsibility, saying they mishandled Gray's injury and should have called paramedics earlier.

Demonstrators gathered outside Baltimore City Hall on May 3 to celebrate the restoration of their right to protest without harsh controls in an all-too-rare case of a step towards justice in struggles against police brutality, TeleSUR English said the next day.

Thousands of German train drivers and railway workers began a week-long strike on May 5, the longest in the country’s post-war history.

About two thirds of Germany’s long distance trains and a third of regional trains have been cancelled, with trains in the eastern region around Halle, Leipzig, and Dresden reduced to about 15% of services.

Some subway systems were also affected, including in Hamburg and Berlin.

Deutsche Bahn (DB) carries a fifth of Germany's freight transport — about 1 million tonnes per day — as well as moving 5.5 million passengers daily.


President Nicolas Maduro at International Workers' Day celebrations in Caracas, May 1.

Braving the heat, more than 100,000 Venezuelans flooded the streets of Caracas on May 1 to commemorate the International Workers' Day and gains for working people under the Bolivarian Revolution.

Two new global developments emphasised the growing momentum of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign targetting Israel.

The campaign was launched in 2005 by more than 100 Palestinian civil society groups in a bid to isolate Israel over its polices of occupation and apartheid against Palestinians.


President Rafael Correa led some 55,000 workers into Santo Domingo plaza. Photo: TeleSUR.

May Day celebrations in Quito took on a divided political nature with two marches happening simultaneously, TeleSUR English said on May 1.

For three months, from November to February, the Spanish economic and political establishment was in a state of barely suppressed panic.

In national opinion polls, support for the “reds” - in the form of radical new force Podemos - had overtaken that for the establishment parties, the ruling People’s Party (PP) and the opposition Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE).


Photo: Ladyrene Pérez/Cubadebate.

An estimated 1 million people marched on May 1 in Havana, Cuba, to celebrate International Workers´ Day, TeleSUR English said.

War planes from the US and its allies bombed the village of Birmehli in northern Syria on the night of April‭ ‬30.‭ ‬US Central Command spokesperson Major Curtis Kellogg claimed that at least‭ ‬50‭ ‬fighters from the self-styled Islamic State‭ (‬IS‭) ‬group were killed and there was‭ “‬no indication that any civilians were killed‭”‬.

However,‭ ‬human rights groups,‭ ‬including the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights‭ (‬SOHR‭)‬,‭ ‬have reported that all the casualties were civilians:‭ ‬64‭ ‬people,‭ ‬including‭ ‬31‭ ‬children.‭


Evo Morales. Photo: ABI — Agencia Boliviana de Información.

Bolivia's left-wing president Evo Morales announced various salary rises on May 1 in honour of International Workers’ Day, TeleSUR English said. The national minimum wage will increase by 15% from US$208 to $239 a month and the general salary by 8.5%.

The Global Tamil Forum issued a statement on May 1 evaluating the first months of in office of Sri Lanka's new president Maithripala Sirisena.

In presidential elections in January, Sirisena defeated the incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had presided over a genocidal war against the Tamil people and then kept them under military occupation.

The GTF praised Sirisena for amending the Sri Lankan constitution to cut the power of the president and increase the power of parliament.