International News

GLW Issue 1044

Support for the Greek government headed by radical left party SYRIZA is growing, new polls show. The polls also found high support for SYRIZA's negotiations with its creditors, which secured a deal to extend its loans package by four months.

The deal came with significant concessions to the institutions that have imposed austerity on Greece, which led to strong criticisms from SYRIZA's Left Platform, which believes the party should either prepare for, or at least consider, leaving the eurozone and returning to the drachma.

About 150 relatives of missing people protested outside a hearing of the Presidential Commission on Missing Persons in Trincomalee, a city on the east coast of Sri Lanka, on February 28.

The protesters were mainly Tamil women whose relatives are still missing after being arrested or abducted by the Sri Lankan armed forces. They expressed their lack of confidence in any commission appointed by the Sri Lankan government, and demanded investigations by a United Nations team.

Offshore oil drilling operations off Western Sahara, carried out by the US firm Kosmos Energy, were denounced by Western Sahara Resources Watch (WSRW) on March 2.

“Kosmos Energy did nothing to obtain the consent of the people of Western Sahara,” said WSRW chair Erik Hagen.

The Dallas-based company said its exploration well had not yielded a commercial find and would be plugged, Associated Press said on March 2.

Venezuela has launched a campaign against the environmental toll of hydraulic fracturing in the United States with a new exhibition entitled “Fucking Fracking”.

Government official Ernesto Villegas announced the inauguration of the exhibition on March 2. It will veature talks by economists and oil experts, as well as an anti-fracking play.

The exhibition's logo is a fractured heart dripping with black oil, with dried up leaves coming from the arteries.

GLW Issue 1043

He is an economist, academic, poet, blogger, video game consultant, libertarian Marxist, motorbike rider and accidental fashion icon. Now he’s the holder of possibly the most difficult job in the world: Greece’s finance minister.

Meet Yanis Varoufakis, SYRIZA Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s right hand man and the key negotiator between Greece and its creditors.

In downtown Athens, Varoufakis is well liked among the public. He is the definitive cosmopolitan, self-made man who sees himself as a citizen of Europe as much as Greece.

US President Obama vetoed a Republican bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline on February 24. Both houses of the Republican-dominated US Congress had passed a bill that approved building the highly controversial pipeline designed to bring crude from Alberta's tar sands in Canada to refineries in the US South.

Tens of thousands gathered in the North Carolina capital of Raleigh on February 8 for what organisers called the largest civil rights rally in the South since the famous Selma march in 1965.

The Mass Moral March has been held annually to protest the right-wing state government’s attacks on voting rights, education, the environment, healthcare and women’s rights.

In Greece's January 25 elections, 388,000 people voted for the fascist, neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn.

The election was largely fought as a contest of hope and solidarity against fear and austerity. Radical left party SYRIZA defeated right-wing establishment party New Democracy.

SYRIZA placed first in the popular vote with 36% of votes, but the openly fascist party Golden Dawn took third place in the poll with 6.3%.

This is significant for three reasons:

Political parties in El Salvador formally wrapped up their campaigns on February 25 ahead of local and legislative elections schedule for March 1, with polls showing the left-wing Farabundu Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) ahead of right-wing rivals.

Electors in Latin America's smallest country will head to the polls to elect mayors as well as representatives to the country's Legislative Assembly.

The huge multinational US oil corporation Texaco operated in Ecuador from 1964 until 1992 (Texaco merged with Chevron in 2001).

The corporation poured 72 billion litres of oil waste and 45 million litres of crude oil over 2 million hectares of land in Santa Elena province — land which included the Amazon rainforest, rivers and agricultural land.

Texaco just poured the oil into ground-connected pipes which just poured oil directly into the rivers and forests.

Radical candidate for mayor of Chicago Jesus Garcia finished in second place in the first round of the city’s election on February 24.

Incumbent Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff for President Barak Obama from 2008-2010, failed to reach the 50%-plus-one threshold, so there will be a runoff election.

The New York Times said: “It was a serious blow after a campaign in which Mr. Emanuel had a huge fundraising edge over lesser-known opponents, not to mention an in-person endorsement last week from President Obama in his adopted hometown.”

When unionised oil workers at the Tesoro Golden Eagle plant in Martinez, California walked off the job on February 1 to demand safer working conditions, they received some unexpected company on the picket line.

Since the start of the strike, which has expanded from nine to 11 refineries nationwide, environmental activists with Communities for a Better Environment have joined members of the United Steelworkers (USW) union for their daily protests outside the plant.

Support for the Greek government headed by radical left party SYRIZA is growing, new polls show. The polls also found high support for SYRIZA's negotiations with its creditors, which secured a deal to extend its loans package by four months.

The deal came with significant concessions to the institutions that have imposed austerity on Greece, which led to strong criticisms from SYRIZA's Left Platform.

Fifteen police descended on the home of Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) general secretary S Arutchelvan (Arul) in Kajang, a suburban satellite of the capital city Kuala Lumpur, on February 19.

They detained him under the Sedition Act for a statement he issued on behalf of the PSM after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction on a sodomy charge.

If history is any guide, it is reasonable to assume that Greece’s recently-elected left-wing SYRIZA government will be subjected to a foreign-backed destabilisation campaign and possible attempts to install a new right-wing authoritarian regime.

There is a long history in Greece of the left being suppressed by the oligarchy collaborating with outside forces.

A second round of talks between US and Cuban diplomats began in Washington on February 27, with the aim of restoring diplomatic relations.

US President Barack Obama announced, in what he termed the most significant Cuba policy shift in more than 50 years, that he will pursue diplomatic relations and urge Congress to dismantle the US blockade of Cuba.

Venezuela has faced new attempts to subvert its democracy and roll-back the pro-poor process of social change known as the Bolivarian revolution, which aims to build a “socialism of the 21st century”.

The attacks have taken the form of new US-imposed sanctions, an economic war by private business owners to cause shortages and what Venezuelan officials say is a thwarted coup plot to overthrow the government.

On February 25, Venezuelan National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello presented evidence relating the the coup plot thwarted earlier in the month.

Greece’s new SYRIZA government submitted its list of proposed economic reforms to the Eurogroup (the finance ministers of eurozone nations) on February 23 as a precondition for its international creditors to approve a four-month loan extension. The deal was signed on February 20.

With Greece’s existing loan arrangement expiring on February 28 and bankruptcy looming, a last-minute deal was finally agreed after three weeks of intense negotiations. The talks had been characterised by daily — sometimes hourly — twists and turns, claims and counterclaims, leaks and threats.

The SYRIZA government's list of reforms, drawn up as part of its temporary four-month loan extension deal, was accepted by the Eurogroup on February 24.

In a February 25 statement, the Party of the European Left (EL) said: "The fight for democracy and against austerity in Europe is far from being finished, but this bridging agreement is a very important first step.

GLW Issue 1042

A Green Surge has hit Britain. Thanks to an ongoing growth spurt, the Green Party of England and Wales has now hit 54,000 members, on top of nearly 10,000 members in the Scottish Green Party.

Opinion polls put the party on the rise, frequently beating the Liberal Democrats, who are governing in coalition with the Conservatives. The Greens now have more members than the far-right anti-immigrant UK Independence Party (UKIP), whose growing support has generated much media attention.

Instro Precision, a factory in Kent, England, owned by Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems was shut down on February 17 by four activists occupying the roof while others blockaded the entrance.

Instro Precision is a manufacturer of military targeting systems. Its optical equipment is used in drones such as those Israel used to bombard Gaza during the summer of 2014, say the activists. Such surveillance equipment has also been installed in Israel’s apartheid wall in the West Bank.

US media reported on February 14 that more than 4000 ground combat troops are heading to Kuwait. Reports indicate it could be the US’ largest ground force in the region.

The move comes as President Barack Obama is petitioning Congress for an Authorisation for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against the Islamic State group.

Obama sent Congress the AUMF petition denying plans for a ground war, however the troops in Kuwait are prepared for any “contingency,” a Pentagon military source said.

Palestinian student Lina Khattab, 18, a first-year media student at Birzeit University, was sentenced by an Israeli military court to six months imprisonment, a NIS6000 (US$1500) fine and three years probation on February 17.

She is also a folkloric dancer with the world-renowned El-Funoun Popular Palestinian Dance Troupe and is active in other cultural and political student activities at the university.

The largest US refinery workers strike since 1980 entered its third week, TeleSUR English said on February 18, with union and oil company representatives set to renew face-to-face talks over pay and safety after a week-long hiatus.

The article said: “The United Steelworkers Union (USW) is seeking a three-year, industry-wide pact that would protect 30,000 workers at 63 U.S. refineries, covering up to two-thirds of the country's domestic oil producing capacity.

Fires were still smouldering on the morning of February 17 as emergency crews assessed the damage after a train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed and exploded near the Mt Carbon area of Fayette County, West Virginia, the day before.

About 2400 people have been evacuated or displaced by the derailment, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as the fire burned power lines.

After days of fraught negotiations, a temporary agreement was finally reached on February 20 between the Greek government and its Eurozone creditors to extend Greece's loan agreement.

It came a day after the German government scuttled a Greece proposal for a six-month extension to its loans program, which was set to run out at the end of the month.

Craig Stephen Hicks murdered three of his neighbours in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on the evening of February 10: Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Yusor's sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.

Hicks was arrested and charged with first-degree murder after he turned himself in to police.

Almost immediately, authorities declared the motive for the killings was a dispute over parking at the condominium complex where they all lived. But it was impossible to ignore the cloud of hate and bigotry hanging over these murders.

More than 700 creative professionals living in the Britain — including writers, visual artists, actors, musicians and many others — have signed up to a pledge to boycott collaboration with Israeli state-funded projects.

The announcement marks a significant step for the British cultural boycott campaign. There have been many open letters and other statements of support for Palestine from British artists, but the pledge brings together a huge number of creatives in one coordinated effort.

Police descended on the house of Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) secretary general S Arutchelvan (Arul) in Kajang on February 19, arresting him under the Sedition Act.

We believe Arul has been arrested for his press statement on behalf of the PSM on opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy 2 guilty verdict. In the statement, Arul criticised the Federal Court judgement, saying the courts are not independent and are politically driven.

Independent journalist and filmmaker John Pilger was interviewed Michael Albert on the determination of the US and its allies to overthrow Venezuela's elected government and destroy the Bolivarian revolution begun by late president Hugo Chavez.