International News

GLW Issue 1047

The following statement was released by Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, Punjab president of the Awami Workers Party, in response to the Pakistani government stating it intended to join the US-backed Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.

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The London School of Economics (LSE) was occupied by students on March 17. The occupation, still going as of March 28, has since spread to King's College London, University of Arts London and Goldsmiths University of London.

More than 100 students took over the school, which has been associated with neoliberal economic theory for decades, and declared that the central university administration building has been transformed into the Free University of London.

Greece demands Germany pay war reparations

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias has proposed creating a joint commission of Greek and German experts to address the issue of World War II reparations, TeleSUR English said on March 23.

“Athens wants to come to an agreement regarding the issue of reparations, we need to find a common denominator,” Kotzias said. The foreign minister added that he prefers a political solution to the issue, rather than a legal one.

Since US President Barack Obama's administration decided to impose new sanctions on Venezuela on March 9, many people, including journalists, have asked what motivated them to do this.

Some are curious over the apparent inconsistency between this move and the White House decision in December to begin normalising relations with Cuba. Others are wondering why the Obama administration would do something that so obviously hurts the United States-backed opposition in Venezuela, at least in the short run.

Spain: Education sector strikes against privatisation

Professors and students in more than 40 Spanish cities went on strike on March 24 against the government’s education reform aimed at privatising the public sector.

According to the unions who organised the strike, there was an 85% participation rate. High schools reached 90% participation around the country, according to a statement by Workers Commissions, FETE-UGT, the Independent Central of State Officials and Students of Spain in Movement.

More than 4000 local and global groups from 120 countries took part in the 14th World Social Forum in Tunisia from March 24 to 28. The WSF was created as a popular alternative to the corporate-dominated, elite World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.

The first WSF was held in Brazil in 2001 and was organised as an alternative to the WEF, the yearly meeting of the global ultra-rich.

The small, majority-Black town of Ferguson, Missouri has once again become the flash point of a new movement against the oppression of African Americans and the racist response.

US Attorney-General Eric Holder recently released a Department of Justice (DOJ) report detailing the systematic oppression of the Black community in Ferguson by city authorities, the police department and the courts.

An unprecedented climate change-fueled drought contributed to the political unrest in Syria, says a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Huffington Post reported on February 3.

The article said the Syrian drought, which began in late 2006, dragged on for three years and was the worst on record.

In the more than four years since mass uprisings ousted dictatorial regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, it can seem that the initial hopes represented by these mass movements lie in tatters.

Libya, Syria, Yemen and Iraq remain mired in bloody armed conflicts that have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and displaced millions more within and across borders.

In the pivotal case of Egypt, military rule has returned through the violent crushing of protests, the arrests of an estimated 40,000 people and the rebuilding of the repressive structures of the Hosni Mubarak era.

Thousands of demonstrators from across Spain gathered in Madrid’s main Colon Square on March 21 to protest against continuing harsh government austerity measures. Nine columns of demonstrators, who had been on the march for several days, converged on the plaza.

Labelled Marches for Dignity, at least 20,000 people packed Colon Square, carrying republican flags and banners calling for a general strike.

Nearly 90,000 people took to the streets of Dublin on March 21, in an unprecedented fifth mass protest in six months against the introduction of water charges by the Irish government.

The sea of flags, banners and placards was addressed by a range of politicians, community activists and union leaders.

The protest was organised by the Right2Water campaign — a broad coalition of community groups, NGOs and political parties, led by some of Ireland’s largest unions.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced the creation of the Ministry of Ecosocialism and Water, which will be tasked with protecting the environment in the context of Venezuela's bid to build “21st century socialism”.

The new body will supervise the National Water Plan, designed to ensure public access to water, as well as the Tree Mission, which involves the community in reforestation efforts.

The Argentine government urged the British government to return to the negotiating table over the Malvinas Islands on March 25, TeleSUR English said.

It comes in response to a planned “beef up” of British military presence on the disputed islands off the coast of South America that Britain occupies.

In a statement, Argentina's foreign ministry described Britain's “growing militarisation” of the disputed islands as “absolutely unjustifiable”.

An international campaign for the release of jailed Basque pro-independence leader Arnaldo Otegi was launched at a conference in the European Parliament in Brussels on March 24.

A statement calling for Otegi’s release was announced at the conference, which has been endorsed by international figures including former Latin American presidents, Nobel Prize winners, political representatives and former political prisoners.

Israelis voted for the status quo in elections on March 17. The ruling Likud party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were re-elected, as voters endorsed ongoing apartheid and military rule for the Palestinian population.

Israeli Jewish society is itself wracked by economic and social crisis. It is also conflicted by class, gender, religious and ethnic divides. But like all Israeli elections, the campaign was fought over how Israel should relate to its subject Palestinian population.

Western Sahara is the last territory in Africa recognised by the United Nations as non-self-governing.

Spanish colonial occupation was ended in 1975 by the struggle of the Polisario Front. However, independence was denied by a secret agreement between Spain and Morocco for a Moroccan invasion.

Since the invasion about half the Saharawi population have lived in refugee camps on the border with Algeria while the remainder living under Moroccan occupation are becoming outnumbered by Moroccan settlers.

Julian Assange will stay in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London as long as the United States government continues its case against him for his work on whistleblowing website Wikileaks, his lawyers said on March 19.

The recent development of the Swedish prosecutors agreeing to question Assange over two cases of sexual assault in 2010 within the embassy has led to speculation that he could leave the building, where he has taken refuge for over 1000 days, if the Swedish charges are dropped.

Assange, who has never been charged, has always denied the sexual assault allegations.

The March 22 regional elections in Andalusia, Spain’s most populous and second-poorest region, opened this year's critical election calendar.

This election cycle includes local government and 13 regional elections on May 24 and a September 27 poll in Catalonia that will double as an independence referendum. It will culminate in national Spanish elections in November.

The future course of politics in the Spanish state and Europe will greatly depend on the results of these contests.

As Palestinians continue to face economic hardships and services and housing shortages after the Israeli bombardments last year, dozens of Gazans joined a rally on March 21 in solidarity with Venezuela.

TeleSUR’s correspondent in Gaza, Noor Harazeen, reported from the rally that attendees were calling for the US to keep its hands off Venezuela.

The event was organised by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and several Palestinian officials attended, including Sami Abu Zuhri from Hamas.

This statement was released by Benny Wenda, Spokesperson for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, on March 21.

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It brings me much sadness and grief to report that 2 days ago on March 19, 4 more of my people were shot by the Indonesian police. One was killed and at least 3 more were arrested, all simply for attending a peaceful fundraiser in Yahukimo, West Papua.

Update: All the Malaysian anti-GST protesters who were detained on Monday have now been released on RM3,000 bail. They are to appear in court again on May 14. Thanks for all the protest letters!

Police used excessive force in the recent crackdown on protesters against the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which is scheduled to be implemented on April 1.

GLW Issue 1046

Anti-riot police attacked protesters gathering against the inauguration of the European Central Bank’s (ECB) new headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, on March 18. Reuters said more than 550 people were arrested.

Police used pepper gas and water cannons to open a path to the entrance of the building, which was being blocked by demonstrations. A minority of protesters threw stones or other projectiles and set fire to at least seven police cars. More than 100 protesters were reported to be injured.

Sinn Fein MLA and Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness indicated on March 9 that his party would oppose the new welfare reform bill in the northern Irish Assembly in the six Irish counties still occupied by Britain.

McGuinness accused government partners the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of acting in bad faith. Sinn Fein is in a power-sharing arrangement as part of the Good Friday peace agreement signed in 1998, which sought to end the violence that had wracked Ireland's north since the 1ate 1960s, known as The Troubles.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed into law last month the most significant educational reform the country has seen in 30 years.

Enacted after an eight-month legislative battle, the new law will gradually ban profits, tuition fees, and selective admissions practices in privately-owned primary and secondary schools that receive state subsidies.

The statement below was released on the Facebook page of the Free West Papua Campaign.

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We are filled with grief today to learn that a 17-year-old West Papuan youth has been found murdered by suspected members of the Australian-trained Indonesian special forces group Kopassus.

Right-wing protesters swarmed ministerial buildings in the Brazilian capital Brasilia and along Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro on March 15.

The protests were part of nationwide demonstrations calling for the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Huge protests took place in 65 cities across the country, involving hundreds of thousands of people. Protesters claim that the recently elected president should be impeached due to a corruption scandal in the state-owned oil company Petrobras.

Indonesia is supposed to have a new liberal leadership with the election of new president Jodo Widodo, the first president since the Suharto dictatorship was overthrown in 198 to be elected from outside the Javanese military/political elite.

But the Australian public, in the furore over the fate of two the Australians and others facing execution, are getting a glimpse of the stance of Widodo — and other influential Indonesian leaders — towards human rights, justice and compassion.

A great companero, colleague and friend, Roger Burbach, passed away on March 5 at the age of 70.

I had the privilege of working with Roger on a book we co-authored, together with Michael Fox, titled Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions: The Future of Twenty-First-Century Socialism.

Despite being almost double our age, Roger was without a doubt the driving force behind this project, which turned out to be his last book published while still alive.

I visited Athens recently as part of a solidarity delegation from the British party Left Unity. On January 25, the day before radical left party SYRIZA’s election victory, two of us were fortunate enough to take part in a tour of some of the self-organising structures in Athens supported by the Solidarity for All network.

Once again the world's poorest people are suffering the effects of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions which they played no role in producing.

On March 13, Cyclone Pam ripped through the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, an archipelago of 82 islands, 65 of which are inhabited.

Cyclone Pam recorded wind speeds of 270 km/h, making it the strongest ever recorded in Vanuatu. Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which devastated the Filipino islands of Samar and Leyte in 2013, holds the record for the strongest storm anywhere, with wind speeds of 315 km/h.