Kyrgyzstan: Thousands of protesters furious over corruption 40 deaths over 400 injured

By Peter Leonard

April 7 2010

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – Thousands of protesters furious over corruption and spiraling utility bills seized government buildings and clashed with police Wednesday in Kyrgyzstan, throwing control of the Central Asian nation into doubt. Police opened fire on demonstrators, killing dozens and wounding hundreds.

The eruption of violence shattered the relative stability of this mountainous former Soviet republic, which houses a U.S. military base that is a key supply centre in the fight against the Taliban in nearby Afghanistan. The unrest in Kyrgyzstan did not appear likely to spread across former Soviet Central Asia, however.

The chaos erupted after elite police at government headquarters in the capital, Bishkek, began shooting to drive back crowds of demonstrators called onto the streets by opposition parties for a day of protest.

The crowds took control of the state TV building and looted it, then marched toward the Interior Ministry, according to Associated Press reporters on the scene, before changing direction and attacking a national security building nearby. They were repelled by security forces.

The leader of the main opposition party said on the former state television channel that he had formed a new government and was negotiating with the president and demanding he step down. Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the claim.

Dozens of wounded demonstrators lined the corridors of one of Bishkek’s main hospitals, a block away from the main square, where doctors were unable to cope with the flood of patients. Weeping nurses slumped over dead bodies, doctors shouted at each other and the floors were covered in blood.

Kyrgyzstan’s Health Ministry said 40 people had died and more than 400 were wounded in clashes with police. Opposition activist Toktoim Umetalieva said at least 100 people had died after police opened fire with live ammunition.

Opposition activist Shamil Murat told the AP that Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongatiyev had been beaten to death by a mob in the western town of Talas where the unrest began a day ago. The respected Fergana.ru Web site reported later that Kongatiyev was badly beaten but had not dead, saying its own reporter had witnessed the beating.

The unrest began Tuesday in the western city of Talas, where demonstrators stormed a government office and held a governor hostage, prompting a government warning of “severe” repercussions for continuing unrest.

The opposition called nationwide protests for Wednesday, vowing to defy increasingly authoritarian President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

Since coming to power in 2005 on a wave of street protests known as the Tulip Revolution, Bakiyev has ensured a measure of stability, but many observers say he has done so at the expense of democratic standards while enriching himself and his family.

Over the past two years, Kyrgyz authorities have clamped down on free media, and opposition activists say they have routinely been subjected to physical intimidation and targeted by politically motivated criminal investigations. Many of the opposition leaders once were allies of Bakiyev.

Anti-government forces have been in disarray until recently, but widespread anger over a 200 per cent hike in electricity and heating gas bills has galvanized the fractious opposition.

Police in Bishkek at first used rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons and concussion grenades Wednesday to try to control crowds of young men clad in black who were chasing police officers, beating them up and seizing their arms, trucks and armoured personnel carriers.

Some protesters then tried to use a personnel carrier to ram the gates of the government headquarters, known as the White House. Many of the protesters threw rocks, but about a half dozen young protesters shot Kalashnikovs into the air from the square in front of the building.

“We don’t want this rotten power!” protester Makhsat Talbadyev said, as he and others in Bishkek waved opposition party flags and chanted: “Bakiyev out!”

Some 200 elite police began firing, pushing the crowd back from the government headquarters. The president was not seen in public Wednesday and his whereabouts were unclear.

Protesters set fire to the prosecutor general’s office in the city centre, and a giant plume of black smoke billowed into the sky.

Groups of protesters then set out across Bishkek, attacking more government buildings.

At least 10 opposition leaders were arrested overnight and were being held at the security headquarters in Bishkek, opposition lawmaker Irina Karamushkina said.

One of them, Temir Sariyev, was freed Wednesday by protesters.

The U.S. State Department called for peace and restraint on both sides.

The prime minister, meanwhile, accused the opposition of provoking the violence in the country of 5 million people.

“What kind of opposition is this? They are just bandits,” Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov said.

Unrest also broke out for a second day in the western town of Talas and spread to the southern city of Naryn.

Some 5,000 protesters seized Naryn’s regional administration building and installed a new governor, opposition activist Adilet Eshenov said. At least four people were wounded in clashes, including the regional police chief, he said.

Another 10,000 protesters stormed police headquarters Wednesday in Talas, where on Tuesday protesters had held the regional governor hostage in his office.

The protesters beat up the interior minister, Kongatiyev, and forced him to call his subordinates in Bishkek and call off the crackdown on protesters, a correspondent for the local affiliate of U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said.

Witnesses said the crowd in Talas looted police headquarters Wednesday, removing computers and furniture. Dozens of police officers left the building and mingled with protesters.

In the eastern region of Issyk-Kul, protesters seized the regional administration building and declared they installed their governor, the Ata-Meken opposition party said on its Web site.

Hundreds of protesters overran the government building Tuesday on Talas’ main square. They were initially dispersed by baton-wielding police, but then fought through tear gas and flash grenades to regroup, burning police cars and hurling stones and Molotov cocktails.

Usenov said Tuesday’s violence in Talas had left 85 officers injured and 15 unaccounted for.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who met with Bakiyev in Kyrgyzstan on Sunday, arrived in Moscow on Wednesday at the end of a trip to several Central Asian nations.

“The secretary-general is shocked by the reported deaths and injuries that have occurred today in Kyrgyzstan,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said. “He once again calls on all concerned to show restraint. He urgently appeals for dialogue and calm to avoid further bloodshed.”

The leaders of the four other former Soviet republics in the region were certain to be watching events in Bishkek with concern, but the authoritarian, and in some cases dictatorial, natures of their governments would likely allow them to squash any attempts to challenge their rules.

In Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, people have been too terrified to challenge Stalinist-style governments. In Tajikistan, the legacy of a 1990s civil war has made people wary of conflict. Immediate unrest also appeared unlikely in energy-rich Kazakhstan, where politically apathy is combined with a weak opposition.

After the March 2005 protests that brought Bakiyev to power, some hoped that the democracy he then promised to bring to Kyrgyzstan would spread to the other former Soviet republics in the region. But those countries responded by clamping down further, equating democracy with regime change.

Just two months later, in May 2005, the Uzbek government brutally suppressed an uprising in the city of Andijan.

Writer Leila Saralayeva contributed to this report.

Source

This is what happens when you piss people off. You cannot steal from people and oppress them and expect them to sit ideally by and do nothing. Sooner or latter they will turn on you.

A state of emergency has been declared in Kyrgyzstan as thousands of protesters calling for President Bakiev to resign, clash with police across the country. Unconfirmed reports suggest at least 17 people have been killed and hundreds injured. Witnesses say Kyrgyz interior minister has died from injuries in Kyrgyz city of Talas.

A state of emergency has been declared in Kyrgyzstan as thousands of protesters calling for President Bakiev to resign, clash with police across the country. Unconfirmed reports suggest at least 17 people have been killed and over 140 are injured.

Kyrgyzstan’s President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has reportedly left the country after thousands of protesters, calling for him to step down, clashed with police. The opposition claims one hundred people have been killed, but the country’s Health Ministry, says the number of dead is 40.

Where there is US involvement there are always problems.  Leaders the US stand behind are unusably corrupt and oppress the people.  History tells us that. Most countries do not want US Military bases on their soil.

When there are problems in a country, more times then not, the cookie crumbs lead back to the US. The US just wants Kyrgyzstan so they can use it to wage war. Which is just what they have been doing. That is what all their Military bases are for to wage war on other countries. The US could care less about the people living in Kyrgyzstan however. With their Military bases comes war, pollution and crime.

Related

Kyrgyz elders want US base shut, troops gone
March 14 2010

The Council of Elders in Kyrgyzstan has demanded that the country’s authorities shut down a US base at Manas International Airport outside the capital, Bishkek. Besides the closure demand, the council is also calling for an immediate withdrawal of the US Troops from their country. “Until the entire contingent leaves [Kyrgyzstan], all flights of combat airplanes must be banned, but civilian airplanes can be authorized to deliver humanitarian and other peaceful supplies,” they said.

The military presence of the U.S. and other NATO member states in the territory of Kyrgyzstan poses a threat to our national interests,” the council said in a statement read at a news conference on Wednesday.  Source

Kyrgyz rally against US air base

Bishkek (AFP) Oct 22, 2008

Some 100 activists from two Kyrgyz political groups rallied Tuesday in capital Bishkek, calling for withdrawal of the US air base from Kyrgyzstan.Protesters from the nationalist Zhoomart group and the Sergiy Radonezhsky Fund cheered as Zhoomart’s leader Nurlan Motuyev publicly burned a US flag and an effigy of US President George W. Bush.

“Americans are the first to begin wars everywhere, they kill peaceful Muslims, spill fuel on our soil and make farmers suffer from poor crops. Away with the air base!” Motuyev called.

“There is a threat that if a US base stays in Kyrgyzstan, Muslim countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and China would take vengeance on us,” the Fund’s leader Igor Trofimov warned.

Police, though present, did not interfere.

Local protests against US military presence are often staged both in Bishkek and next to the air base.

The air base, which shares premises with the country’s main airport at Manas, outside the capital, is crucial to Washington’s operations in Afghanistan.

About 1,000 US troops are stationed at Manas. Source

PROTESTS AGAINST U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE HELD IN BISHKEK

October 22, 2008

The U.S. image in Kyrgyzstan was considerably tarnished following the shooting of a Kyrgyz truck driver Aleksander Ivanov in December 2006 by U.S. serviceman Zackary Hatfield. Since then a group of activists, including Ivanov’s widow Marina Ivanova, several journalists, and NGO leaders have been active campaigning for the withdrawal of the U.S. base. Source

Kyrgyzstan unveils US military training base plan

March 7 2010

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) – Officials in the impoverished Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan say the United States plans to build a $5 million military base for training local troops to assist in the fight against international terrorism.

Kyrgyzstan already hosts a U.S. military base in Manas, outside the capital Bishkek, used by Washington as a regional hub for the U.S.-led war in nearby Afghanistan.

A Kyrgyz Defense Ministry statement released Wednesday says the training base – complete with barracks, dining hall, classrooms and an assault course – will be constructed near the southern town of Batken.

No timeframe was mentioned.

The Kyrgyz government last year backed off a threat to evict U.S. forces from Manas after Washington offered to increase the rent it pays threefold. Source

Japan Tokunoshima islanders reject US Marines base

Raising the price of heat and hydro over 200 percent is just stupid. I wonder if the President had share in the companies?

Privatization leads to higher prices.

Then there are those who wish to exploit the countries resources.

Kyrgyzstan – prospective one day, poison the next

By Robin Bromby
April 08, 2010
SHAREHOLDERS in a clutch of junior explorers will today be watching events in the central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan with great interest – or, possibly, with trepidation. There has been severe political unrest in the capital, Bishkek, overnight with conflicting reports as to whether the government is still controlling the country. Certainly many people have been killed, possibly 100 or more.

Australian explorers have been keen on this country for some time – it is known to contain uranium (it being the first source of yellowcake when the Soviet Union went nuclear after World War II) and has great promise with gold, base metals, geothermal and hydrocarbon. And, it must be added, the uprising may be shortlived, a new government may well ensure that resources companies are unaffected and most of the projects are located well away from the capital and strife.

But this surge of political risk couldn’t have come at a worse time for Kentor Gold which is on the brink of giving the green light to its Andash copper gold development.

Others affected include Caspian Oil & Gas which has a large acreage position around the Fergana Basin, an area which has been supporting oil production the early 1900s. In late February CIG announced that its joint venture partner in Kyrgyzstan,Santos, had decided to withdraw after spending $US16 million on the project. Caspian is now looking for a new JV partner.

And it was just last week that Manas Resources announced some very encouraging gold drilling results from its Shambesai project in the central Asian republic.

But there are a couple of juniors that will be thinking they dodged a bullet.

Panax Geothermal has effectively wound back work in the country while it awaits news on its application for World Bank financing, Ram Resources last year handed over its Kyrgyzstan interests in lieu of debt to its former Canadian partner, while Namibian Copper last year kicked the tyres on two uranium projects before deciding that Africa was a better bet.

brombyr@theaustralian.com.au

The writer implies no investment recommendation and this report contains material that is speculative in nature. Investors should seek professional investment advice. The writer does not shares in any company mentioned.

April 8 2010 Updates

Why large-scale riots in Kyrgyzstan?

Also

PM and cabinet of Kyrgyzstan resign and flee the country

Kyrgyzstan’s Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov with his entire cabinet resigned last night and fled to neighbouring Kazakhstan. Anti-government protesters have seized the Parliament and clashed with security forces in which at least 40 people were killed and over 400 injured.

Interfax news agency reported from capital Bishkek that Usenov signed his cabinet’s resignation and handed over the powers to the leader opposition in Parliament Roza Otunbayeva.

Later in a statement Otunbayeva declared that the power in this of Central Asian republic has been assumed by the government of popular trust. Source

The death toll is between 68 and 100.  The number was about 40 deaths earlier.

Update April 9 2010

I am still the president, cries ousted Kyrgyz leader

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Will the global economic crisis save or kill NAFTA?

Jan. 2008: Demonstrators carry an oversized replica of a corn cob to protest the removal of import tariffs on farm goods from U.S. and Canada, as agreed by the North American Free Trade Agreement (AP Photo / Eduardo Verdugo)

January  4 2009

By Parminder Parmar

For years, NAFTA had remained dormant as a significant issue in American and Canadian federal political campaigns.

In both countries, the viability of the free trade agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. hadn’t been questioned since the early 1990s.

Sure, there have been disputes — for example, over softwood timber — but the trade pact, itself, was never in doubt.

That is, until this spring 2008. That’s when the Democratic presidential candidates thrust NAFTA back into the political limelight, telling voters they wanted to take a second look at the deal.

“I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labour and environmental standards that are enforced,” Barack Obama told Democrats in Cleveland, Ohio, during the primaries.

The man who is now U.S. president-elect was trying to sway voters in the region who’ve seen hundreds of thousands of jobs shipped overseas since the 1990s.

Proving the old adage about politics and strange bedfellows, the NDP’s Jack Layton didn’t skip a beat. He went on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” to tell the anti-immigration crusader that some Canadians don’t think the pact is such a good idea, either.

Pro-NAFTA forces both here and in the U.S. appeared dismayed at the resurgence of all the protectionist talk. They probably needn’t worry any more, says an expert on the pact.

“Look at the election speeches and the (U.S.) primaries in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio. You will find there were all sorts of things being promised, being talked about, that have suddenly gone to the backburner,” Ron Wonnacott, professor emeritus in the economics department at the University of Western Ontario told CTV.ca.

Wonnacott, who has been researching and writing about U.S.-Canada trade relations since the 1960s, says the emergence of the economic crisis this fall changed everything.

“I would put NAFTA way down in their (lawmakers’) list of priorities — if it’s any sort of objective at all at this point,” he says bluntly.

But Wonnacott says the economic downturn will also likely bring out protectionist forces in both Canada and the U.S.

“Protectionists’ pressures will come from just about every court … every industry under pressure will be asking for relief,” he says, adding that will mean calls for more trade barriers and higher tariffs.

Is it all about Mexico?

But Wonnacott adds that in the U.S., most of the pressure lawmakers face will have to do more with Mexico than with Canada. He’s careful to point out, however, that Canada shouldn’t assume that some Americans will not look north as they try to protect industries, particularly when it comes to the automobile sector.

“I don’t see the Americans taking this action,” he says, adding, “but in this climate, never say never.”

Wonnacott suspects that talk of an expanded hemispheric trade deal will die down in the current climate. He says, however, there may be bilateral agreements that are signed.

He also notes that as North America and the world begins to come out of the recession, initiatives to further liberalize trade will emerge again.

“But right now, given the problems that countries now face … the big problem on the trade front will be defensive,” he says.

Recognizing this, Canadian, U.S., and world leaders have warned against protectionist pressures that may further hurt the global economy.

Former U.S. vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin told CTV’s Canada AM this month, she believes the current climate will force everyone, including the president-elect to rethink their campaign rhetoric about NAFTA.

“I think (Obama) is going to see some conditions that will allow him to temper his position,” the Alaskan governor said.

“It’s a good agreement and our trade partnering with Canada is extremely valuable. The number of jobs created as a result of NAFTA has been good for both of our countries.”

Even Obama has backtracked from his initial call to re-open NAFTA unilaterally, noting that he doesn’t believe that “we can draw a moat around the American economy.”

But Wonnacott notes that the current economic crisis is relatively unprecedented — and it’s not easy to predict political or economic winds.

“It’s uncharted territory,” he says.

Source

April 7, 2005
Since the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed by the first Bush and the now reviled Carlos Salinas in 1992, over 4000 Mexican workers, many of them campesinos displaced from the land by NAFTA agricultural imports, have died trying to cross that line to find a job no North American citizen will work.
They have drowned in the All-American Canal and the river that Mexico calls the Rio Bravo and the U.S. the Rio Grande.

They have been bitten by vipers running through south Texas, suffocated to death in boxcars, died in car crashes after high speed chases or simply been shot down by the Migra and their volunteer vigilantes.

They have fallen into ravines or froze to death in the winter snow up in the Rumarosa, the most dangerous part of the border to which it is U.S. immigration policy to chase them in a strategy to “up the risks” of migration. And mostly they have dropped out there in the cruel desert never to rise again as the vultures circle slowly in the spotless heavens above.  Source

November 17, 2003

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed in 1993, the rise in the U.S. trade deficit with Canada and Mexico through 2002 has caused the displacement of production that supported 879,280 U.S. jobs. Most of those lost jobs were high-wage positions in manufacturing industries. The loss of these jobs is just the most visible tip of NAFTA’s impact on the U.S. economy. In fact, NAFTA has also contributed to rising income inequality, suppressed real wages for production workers, weakened workers’ collective bargaining powers and ability to organize unions, and reduced fringe benefits. Source

NAFTA: Manufacturing job loss in Canada*
After 15 years under NAFTA Canada is a much more unequal society. Free trade boosters still credit the agreement with increasing employment and
prosperity, but though ‘compensation’ for a few corporate CEOs has rocketed up, NAFTA has in fact contributed to the loss of manufacturing jobs and exerted a downward pressure on wages. Here’s the real story on jobs and NAFTA:
• In the last 6 years, we have lost 350,000 manufacturing jobs. That’s like 150 good jobs disappearing every day. And it’s getting worse.

• The job loss is hitting many different industries all over the country: auto, food processing, forestry products, textiles, metals, furniture etc. The details are different, but
the story is the same: decline in orders lost to cheaper imports, missed investment, job cutbacks and plant closures.
• Too many of the new jobs being created today are low-paying, insecure jobs with fewer benefits, particularly for women.
• Canada is increasingly becoming a society of haves, and have-nots with the gap in wealth growing every year. Source


Food safety, free trade and the election

If ever voters have power, it’s now – and that includes putting your candidates under the microscope on food safety issues. Common Frontiers sends along a link to a useful site (Food Safety First) for voters that offers insight from various media reports on the timing of cuts to safety inspection programs and the outbreak of listeriosis. In my view, the finest work has been done by Toronto Star investigative reporter Robert Cribb, working in conjunction with his colleagues at the CBC.

What does food safety have to do with free trade? A great deal, argues Common Frontiers, a Canadian group critical of the trend towards economic integration – harmonization, as it’s politely put – of standards under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Rick Arnold, the group’s executive director, says deregulation in the food industry in Canada has its genesis with the folks at the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), an ongoing program among Canada, the U.S. and Mexico to harmonize across-the-board. In other words, standards in Canada are lowered to match those south of both borders. Says Arnold:

“Part of the SPP agenda involves developing common North American standards on how food is produced, how it is inspected, how it is processed and how it is moved from one place to another. Common food safety standards developed in the public interest might be a good idea. But the SPP is not about raising food standards. It is about removing ‘trade irritants’ and deregulating the food industries.”

Arnold criticizes the secrecy surround SPP decisions. An exception, he says, was the 2006 SPP report that identified stricter pesticide residue limits in Canada as a “barrier to trade,” a finding resulting in the relaxation of Canadian standards. Large corporations appear to have privileged access to the SPP process under the umbrella of the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC). Arnold asks Canadians to check out the food safety site and, if they have questions, take them to candidates in their ridings to find out where they stand. Now is the best time to expect answers.  Source

This has nothing to do with the Free Trade Agreement with the US but it is rather interesting all the same. Something Canadian should be aware of at the very least.

January 3 2008

Manuel Rozenthal, a long-time international solidarity activist and surgeon, is a member of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, a political organization that works with indigenous communities in Southwest Colombia. He recently toured Canada, sponsored by the Canadian Labour Congress, speaking about the proposed Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, a deal that has been kept almost completely out of the public eye by the Harper government.

Stuart Neatby caught up with Rozenthal in Edmonton in the midst of this tour.

Stuart Neatby: What do we know about the proposed Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and what are its implications for the Colombian people?

Manuel Rozenthal: We know very little, but what we know is of enormous concern.

The so-called negotiations between Canada and Colombia started in July of this year after the visit of Harper to four Latin American countries, including Colombia. On the 26th of November, the fourth round began in Lima and there were rumours and statements pointing to the fact that it might be definitely signed soon, that they might reach an agreement. They have been kept confidential, in almost absolute secrecy, and the communiquÃs that have come out about the state of the negotiations are almost impossible to understand by anybody without good technical knowledge of trade deals.

Secondly, it is the same or more profound agreement that was negotiated with the US that the U.S. congress is refusing to sign with Colombia because of profound concerns of environmental and human rights.

To summarize the concern in a nutshell about free trade agreements, I think that first ” it is not a free trade agreement. I have in my hands the Colombia-U.S. free trade agreement and it’s(TM)s more than 1300 pages long. If it was truly a free trade agreement, it would be very short. It would state that your goods and products would enter my country and mine would enter yours under equal conditions of reciprocity.

But, when you read this text, you actually discover that it is a supra-national constitution that allows access for multi-national corporations, financial and otherwise, to all resources, territory, labour, government contracts, and savings throughout the country with which the agreement is signed. Therefore it is an agreement signed between government officials, on behalf of corporate interests, at the expense of the wealth and the labour of the poorest countries involved, but also affecting dramatically the well-being of the poorest people and labour in the wealthy country at the same time. And that is, in a nutshell, what the agreement is.

One of the biggest recent political scandals in Colombia has been the links that have emerged between high level political officials and paramilitaries. A sort of parallel scandal that has been playing out in recent months has been that of legal court cases, linking multi-national corporations to the Autodefensias Unidas de Colombia (AUC) paramilitaries as well.

Can you talk about the pattern of multi-national corporate involvement with the AUC and what interests for them it actually serves to employ these paramilitaries?

What is very important to do is to make the links between the use of violence and the corporate support for these death squads, all in connection or related to these free trade agreements. I can begin by examining what happened to Chiquita.

Chiquita accepted in court an agreement that acknowledged that it had funnelled $1.7 million in support for the paramilitaries, which the U.S. has declared a terrorist organization. The horrendous thing about these statements is the fact that the $25 million [settlement] was given to the U.S. government! Not a cent of it went to any Colombian victim of the paramilitaries that were supported by Chiquita.

Chiquita was recently sued once again by Jonathan Reiter, a lawyer in New York City. He sued them on behalf of 393 victims of the death squads, either relatives of the people who had been killed or disappeared, or people who had been directly affected by the company’s practices. What Reiter argued is that Chiquita did not have to channel funds to the paramilitaries to protect itself from threats. In fact Chiquita actually funded, trained, and armed paramilitary forces as part of its systematic operations in the country in order to increase profit, dismantle labour, and forcibly remove people from the land that they wanted to use to produce bananas.

Now there is worse evidence coming out: the paramilitaries have confessed. The highest commanders of these death squad forces have stated that every one of the six banana companies that act in Colombia has paid between three and four cents U.S. for each banana that has been produced. So in fact the amount of money that has been delivered to paramilitaries has been enormous. There are three American companies still with the largest proportional Banana production in Colombia: Chiquita, Del Monte and Dole, which have all funded and armed paramilitaries, according to the testimony of those funded by them.

Some of this testimony [states that] whenever the company wanted some land, they would approach the poor peasants in the region ” the rightful owners of this land ” and offer to buy the land for no money at all. If these people refused to sell their land, the next thing they heard was a threat. Following the threat, if they didn’t leave, was the commission of a massacre either using chainsaws to cut people alive into pieces, or mass graves and assassinations, or mass displacement.

So that’s the case of the banana plantations. Drummond, a coal and gas producing company, was also sued because a high official from Colombia witnessed Drummond officials passing lists of union leaders on to paramilitary commanders. Some of those leaders were later murdered or disappeared. Glencore, the Swiss multinational, was involved with similar kinds of activities. Then Coca-Cola was sued because union leaders at four of their plants were threatened and murdered by paramilitaries in order to dismantle their negotiated agreement and to dismantle the union.

If you add up these specific cases and go around the country, you discover that these are systematic practices, that Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world for trade union workers. More than 2500 trade unionists have been murdered in the last 10 years, targeted specifically in areas that were either privatized or delivered to multi-national corporations. During the Uribe administration over the last six years, more than 500 trade union leaders have been assassinated, 28 of them this year. So there is ample evidence that terror is used in a systematic way to cheapen the cost of production and access to resources and territories in order to increase the profit of corporate interests and multinational corporations.

What the free trade agreements do is to legalize and legitimize what terror has achieved for them. And that is why signing a free trade agreement with Colombia is actually becoming an accomplice to the use of terror to make profits.

And terror, of course ” together with extreme destruction of nature and exploitation of people ” is necessarily what the free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia is all about.

Source

In Colombia’s mineral-rich underworld, often demarcated by the full-scale destruction of towns near mining sites, environmental contamination, paramilitary attacks and assassinations of those who stand up to mining interests, Canadian hands are dirtier than those of a coal miner coming up from the pit.

Privatization, Pollution and Free Trade, WTO

World Leaders Must Roll Back Radical WTO Financial Service Deregulation

Sunday Jan 4 Reports: Protests in Canada against Attack in Gaza

Gaza attacks spark outcry

BEN LEMPHERS for Metro Edmonton

Hundreds of people gathered outside city hall in support of Palestine, calling for peace and justice. The well-attended, lively demonstration is in response to Israel’s escalating attacks on Gaza, which has claimed several civilian lives. Another gathering is planned for next Saturday.

Local protesters call for end to latest Middle East violence
By JEFF CUMMINGS
January 5 2009

Hundreds of protesters cheered, shouted and sometimes cried in front of city hall yesterday in an emotional rally calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Many were seen carrying signs, while others from Edmonton’s Islamic community were seen wearing Palestinian headscarves and waving Palestinian flags chanting, “Free, free Palestine.”

“This is not an equal war, not a self-defence act, it is a massacre,” read one sign.

Alaa Kadry, a co-organizer behind the large protest, says Israel’s actions against Gaza have affected a large number of families who live in Edmonton.

Some are still having a hard time trying to reach relatives caught in the war, he says.
“We have many families right now who are under siege,” said Kadry, a member of the Canadian-Palestine Cultural Association.

“This is a stand against aggression, against oppression, against all of the massacres that have taken place right now.”

Kadry says the attacks on Gaza are not self-defence, as what many in the international community are calling it.

Peggy Morton, a member with the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism, said another protest is being planned at city hall on Saturday and they will keep on protesting “as long as the attacks on Gaza take place.”

Similar protests were held in Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver with the largest rally seen in Montreal where thousands of flag-waving protesters flooded downtown streets.

Source

Thousands brave cold in Montreal to denounce Israeli offensive in Gaza

January 4 2009

MONTREAL – A peaceful, well-attended march denouncing the Israeli offensive in Gaza is snaking its way through downtown Montreal this afternoon.

Several thousand placard-toting, flag-waving protesters braved the bitter cold as Israel’s troops and military machinery continued their push into enemy territory.

Demonstrators of all ages gathered in a square on the western tip of Montreal’s downtown core before heading to the Israeli consulate, housed in an office tower just a stone’s throw away.

The march continued peacefully as demonstrators shouted slogans such as “Israel terrorist” and “Free Palestine.”

The Montreal march is the latest in a series of events this weekend across Canada.

Similar events were held Saturday in Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto.

Mideast conflict sparks more protests in T.O.

January 04 2009

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Palestinian supporters in Toronto are planning more protests to urge the Canadian government to speak up against Israel’s escalating military action on the Gaza Strip.

On Saturday, thousands of people gathered outside the Israeli consulate on Bloor Street to voice their concern about the violence which has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians.

The conflict began on Dec. 27, with Israel saying it would no longer tolerate rocket attacks from Hamas on its border towns — attacks that had intensified after the end of a truce agreement.

Rafeef Ziadah, spokesperson for the Palestine House in Toronto, called Israel’s response a disproportionate use of force.

“This is not self-defence,” she said. “Civilians are the ones being killed today.”

The Palestine House organized Saturday’s rally and Ziadah said more protests are being planned as the organization is watching developments in the Middle East closely.

Saturday’s protest was one of many held by Arab communities around the world.

Meanwhile, supporters of Israel are planning their own rally in Toronto. A rally is being planned for Thursday night to show solidarity with the military and their fight against Hamas.

Meir Weinstein, with the Jewish Defence League, says Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilians.

“What the Jewish government is doing is ordering the Israeli Defence Force to finally take action against those sending rockets to Israel,” he told CTV Toronto. “What does a decent person expect to do? This is not a game.”

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that Israel would protect its civilians from rocket attacks, which continued throughout the air assault.

“This morning I can look every one of you in the eyes and say the government did everything before deciding to go ahead with the operation,” Olmert said.

Israeli officials have said they do not intend to occupy the Gaza Strip and have been clear that the goal is to stop rocket attacks.

However, the ground offensive would not be “a rapid one that would end in hours or a few days,” warned one senior military officer, who asked not be named.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the ground offensive “brutal aggression,” and reached out to his rivals in Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

In response to the troop movement, Hamas officials said Gaza would become a “graveyard” for Israeli soldiers.

“You entered like rats,” Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan said in a statement on Hamas’ Al Aqsa TV. “Gaza will be a graveyard for you, God willing.”

Protesters came out in Toronto on Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008 to denounce the Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip and show solidarity with the Palestinian people. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel)

Source

Protests Sunday Jan 4

SundayJan 4 Reports: US protests against Attack in Gaza

SundayJan 4 Reports: Protests around the World Against Gaza assault

Protests Sat Jan 3

Saturday Jan 3 Reports:US protests against Israels attacks on Gaza

Saturday Jan 3 Reports:Canadian Protesters march in support of Palestinians

Saturday Reports on: Demonstrations Against Israels attacks on Gaza, January 3, 2009

Friday Jan 2 Reports:Muslims around the world protest Gaza assault

December Reports

December 29 Reports:Global protests against Israel

Published in: on January 5, 2009 at 8:00 am  Comments Off on Sunday Jan 4 Reports: Protests in Canada against Attack in Gaza  
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A glimps into the minds of Greek Teenagers

By Nikos Raptis
December 12 2008

As always, to understand what is going on today (Dec.11, ’08) in Greece (or any place) one has to go back in time a few decades. Let us make the effort.

A few weeks after the “departure”, in 1974, of the US-supported dictatorship in Greece, I was in the luxurious ground floor of the Bank of Greece where I was filling some forms to secure the necessary exchange for the purchase of a book from a US publisher. I was sitting at a long heavy table. It was early in the day, there were not many people in the huge ground floor and the two security policemen there came and sat at the other end of the table and started chatting. I was wearing a US-made sport jacket. They took me for a foreigner and started talking freely. The older (fat) one says: “So, Karamanlis came from Paris [after the dictatorship] and instead of giving us money, the asshole bought helmets and riot gear for us”. That, Karamanlis, was the uncle of the (rather rotund) present Karamanlis, the Prime Minister of Greece. Karamanlis, the uncle, is referred to as the “Ethnarch” [the “father” of the nation]. Actually, he was a US-chosen rightist proxy to administer Greece on behalf of the US in the early 1950s. He died a few years ago and he demanded that his corpse be buried in a private lot on which a memorial building was erected mimicking the building of the usual “presidential library” of the US Presidents. The burial in a private space is illegal in Greece.

Six years after the above dialogue, between the two policemen, in November 1980, the riot police attack the demonstrators that were marching towards the US Embassy during the yearly march commemorating the 1973 uprising of the students against the dictatorship. The Karamanlis [uncle] police kill 26-year-old Iakovos Koumis and Stamatina Kanellopoulou,  young workers, by crushing their skulls.

In 1981 the “socialists” (PASOK) win the elections. Andreas Papandreou, the US educated professor of economics at Berkley, becomes Prime Minister. His first act: he DOUBLES the salaries of the policemen! Four years later, in 1985, the Papandreou police kill 15-year-old Michael Kaltezas by shooting him in the back of his head, again during the yearly demonstration of the uprising. The killer is acquitted. That same year, Catharine John Bool [spelling?], a 22-year-old American is killed by the Greek police, for refusing to have her car searched by them. Around that period a young Turkish man is beaten to death in an Athens police station. The Greek press never includes his name in the usual list of persons killed by the Greek police. This list consists of the names of about one hundred persons killed by the “socialist” or the rightist police, from 1974 to this day. Not a single policeman was ever convicted. The latest murder is that of the 15-year-old Alexis Gregoropoulos, son of an upper middle class family, six days ago in Athens.

The Greek people, early on, had adopt the “battle-cry”: “Coppers Pigs Murderers!”

For 34 years, from 1974 to 2008, the Greek politicians, both “socialists” and rightists, as expected, have stolen millions of dollars from the money of the state [that is of the Greek taxpayers]. The latest scandal, in the tune of tens of millions of Euros, involves the government of Karamanlis [nephew] and the pious monks of a monastery on the “Sacred Mount of Athos”. It is quite interesting [or quite amusing] how the “professional” Christians bestow sacredness to all kinds of material entities. For example, the above monks, besides living on a sacred mountain, they claim to have the “Sacred Belt” that belonged to the Virgin Mary mother of Jesus, the son of God.

Today these Greek politicians, mostly US-educated and some of them from Harvard or the London School of Economics, have managed to bring the young Greeks who have a university degree in engineering, or in medicine, or in law, etc to the point of a yearly income of about US $ 12,000, if they are lucky to have a job. While life in Greece is as expensive, if not more expensive, than life in Berlin or Paris.

Inevitably, the killing of the teenager was apt to cause an “explosion”. The important new development, compared to previous “explosions”, was that it spread as a revolt all over Greece. Usually, in the past, the violent demonstrations took place in Athens and Salonica.

Here is a very brief recording of what happened after the killing of the 15-year-old Alexis:

–  On Thursday, Dec. 4, there are country-wide demonstrations by students protesting the attempt of the rightist government to downgrade the state-supported public universities. The police, in Athens, beat severely a student who is hospitalized with heavy injuries. On the same day, 3,500 farmers of central Greece block with their cars and their trucks the main North-South highway of Greece, cutting the country in two, protesting the policies of the government that have turned them into heavily debt-ridden paupers.

–  On Saturday, Dec. 6, Alexis is killed 25 minutes after 9 p.m., in cold blood, according to half a dozen eye witnesses. One hour later a violent reaction by the direct-action faction of Greek anarchists is initiated in Athens and eight more cities in Greece. The fight against the police goes on all night long.

–  On Sunday, Dec. 7, around midday a crowd assembles in front of the Athens National Archaeological Museum [a building visited by millions of US citizens during the last 50 years]. The call to assemble was done through the Internet and SMSs. The crowd starts marching peacefully. After a little they clash with the police and the crowd starts burning mostly banks, car dealerships and big businesses. This goes on all night.

–  On Monday, Dec. 8, around 6 p.m.a huge crowd of thousands of people gather at the central building of the University of Athens. Even before the crowd starts to march there are violent contacts with the police. Burning and breaking of shop windows goes on all night long. The same happens in 19 more cities and towns of the country.

–  On Tuesday, Dec. 9, around 12 noon a huge crowd of pupils, students, high school teachers, university professors start to demonstrate. There are clashes with the police. Later in the afternoon the funeral of Alexis is attended by about 4,000 people. The police attacks them. Riots go on all through the night. Looting starts, mostly by immigrants, who do not take part in the riots, and by some Greeks. The same holds for most Greek cities and towns.

–  On Wednesday, Dec. 10, there is a General Strike all over the country. The rioters this time are mostly pupils and students. They attack mostly police stations hurtling, eggs, tomatoes, bitter oranges [also known as Seville oranges], and stones.

– Today, Thursday, Dec. 11, it is mostly pupils and students (14 to 17-year-olds, boys and girls) attacking police stations again with the above mentioned missiles. A few blocks from my place at Halandri, in Athens, the police station is being attacked by high school kids Also, today, there is a tally of the damage done during the riots. Around 565 shops were damaged or completely destroyed, hundreds arrested (half of them looting immigrants), an estimated US $ 1 billion plus in damages, and (most important) 4,200 units of police chemicals spent indiscriminately against Greek citizens, raising the need to buy more chemicals from…Israel!

Now let us try to find out the meaning of this revolt:

But first an important parenthesis:

[Parenthesis: In the central hall of the police station of the Athens neighborhood that I was raised, there is a huge slab of white marble fixed on one of the walls with about a dozen names engraved on it. The names belonged to policemen who were executed in the police station the very first day of the December 1944 uprising of what is known as the “Greek Civil War” after the end of the Nazi occupation of Greece. The executed policemen were anti-communist Nazi collaborators and brutal torturers of members of  the anti-Nazi Resistance, mostly communists.

To try to persuade people about the existence of police brutality is rather redundant. Recent cases as the sodomizing of the young black in a Manhattan subway station, or the revelations about the master-torturer police officer in Chicago are a minuscule recording of what is going on in police stations all over the face of the earth. So, no wonder that the first people to be punished during an uprising are the brutal policemen. The above marble slab is just a simple example.]

The groups that took part in the uprising after the murder of the 15-year-old kid are the following:

–  A minuscule part of direct-action anarchists.

–  A group of non-violent anarchists spread all over Greece, numbering in the hundreds.

– The usual police “plants” in the anarchist groups.

–  A very dangerous group of police officers, of the Blackwater-type of individuals [assisted by neo-Nazis], masquerading as anarchists. [See below].

–  The “KKE” (Communist Party of Greece), “traditional” communists, numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

–  The “Coalition of the Radical Left” (“Coalition” from now on). A formerly Eurocommunist split from KKE, numbering, now, in the hundreds of thousands.

–  The “Greens”, numbering in the thousands

–  University students, numbering in the tens of thousands.

–  High school kids, numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

[The numbering refers to the power of each group in general and does not refer to the number of persons that took part in the uprising.]

The burning and breaking was done by the direct-action anarchists, the Blackwater-type pigs [assisted by the neo-Nazis], and some students and pupils.

The KKE masses demonstrated in the traditional way of marching in extreme discipline and departed. They carried the usual red flags, however the flagpoles were of the size and strength of baseball bats. This was a warning to the pigs and their political choreographers, that they meant business. The pigs got the message.

The Coalition people and the Greens demonstrated in the traditional way but they were there to assist the up-risen youths.

The uprising was carried out by the students and the teenagers, especially the teenagers!

What is of paramount importance is not the journalistic reporting or the burning, the looting, etc, but the incidents, events, and statements that show what is happening in the Greek society now. Here are some of these events:

–  The head of the National Federation of Traders, Demitris Armenakis, representing the owners of the shops that were destroyed said: “No (material) damage can be compared to the life of a young man”. This moral statement, coming from a person that suffered material damage, has impressed most Greeks.

–  From some police stations the information leaked out that some of the policemen demanded and succeeded to take the guns out of the hands of their violent-prone colleagues.

–  At some point ordinary citizens of all ages who usually are fence-sitters were so angry with the behavior of the police during the demonstrations by the young that they tried to intervene and protect the kids. Some of the parents of the younger kids did the same, placing their bodies between their kids and the clubs of the pigs.

–  Today, a deputy of the Greek parliament, belonging to the Coalition, walking with two friends on a side-street of the area of the riots spotted two muscular men wearing hoods who were holding stones and carrying sticks. The deputy asked them if they were policemen. They answered angrily that they were policemen, so what. The deputy and his friends chased them, but their age did not allow them to catch the young braves. This was described, publicly, in the evening news.

–  In a very unfortunate moment, the General Secretary of KKE accused the Coalition that they “caress the ears ” of the hooded persons that burn and destroy. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the KKE and the Coalition leaderships have a decades long enmity that is based partly in personal antipathies.

– The usual 1/3 of a any given population, that consider themselves conservative, that is crypto-fascist, still consider the up-risen kids and the murdered child as “punks”, “brats”, “dirty bastards”, and regard the murderer policeman as a hero.

–  Two well known lawyers initially accepted the defense of the murderer, but after talking to him they declined to represent him. Eventually, a lawyer, by the name of Alexis Kougias, who has been in the forefront of the news for various reasons for almost a decade, accepted the job. Kougias stated publicly that the death of the kid was a “misinterpretation”, that the death was the “will of God”, and it is the job of the court to decide “if the death should have happened”. We think that the case of Kougias is of great interest not only for the Greek society but also for the international community of intellectuals, university students, and ordinary people. We suggest that the Kougias case should be followed closely by all.

The conclusion drawn from the incidents of these six days in Greece : The uprising was in reality the uprising of the Greek teenagers. It was a Greek “intifada”. The “weapons” used by the teenagers in this “intifada” were their burning anger, their maturity, and predominately… Seville oranges, the traditional Greek student weapon against the police. Their targets were the police stations. The police stations, whose historical meaning was touched briefly in the above parenthesis.

What might one expect after the “intifada” of the Greek teenagers? The rightist government of Karamanlis (the nephew) is mortally wounded. The “socialists” have been so corrupt during their two decades-long governing of the country that the young Greeks are repelled by them. What the kids are looking towards, are: the anarchists, the Coalition, and the KKE. Also, to a lesser degree towards the Greens.

A year ago the Coalition’s voting power was a little above 3%. A few months ago it rose to almost 16%. Now it is back at about 9%. The KKE for years was constantly around 5%. Now it is close to 7%. The Greens seem to reach close to 3%. It is reasonable to expect that in the next elections the Left (Coalition, KKE, Greens) could achieve a total voting power of around 20% and even much more.

If the above estimates are correct, then the “intifada” of the Greek teenagers will give a hard time to the CIA analysts in Langley. These analysts initiated the 1967 dictatorship of the colonels. The result was that in 1974 the Communist Party was legal after decades of being outlawed. The murder of Alexis by a “copy” of a US “Rambo”-policeman that initiated the “intifada” of the Greek teenagers, could give birth to a new Left in Greece. Also, this is a very good opportunity for the Parecon vision to be promoted among the Greek teens. It seems that the Coalition has an affinity to the Parecon vision.

We shall see what happens. Let us hope that my estimate is correct.

Source

Uprising in Greece: Protests, Riots, Strikes Enter 6th Day Following Fatal Police Shooting of Teen
Protests, riots and clashes with police have overtaken Greece for the sixth straight day since the fatal police shooting of a teenage boy in Athens Saturday night. One day after Wednesday’s massive general strike over pension reform and privatization shut down the country, more than a hundred schools and at least fifteen university campuses remain occupied by student demonstrators. A major rally is expected Friday, and as solidarity protests spread to neighboring Turkey, as well as Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Denmark and the Netherlands, dozens of arrests have been made across the continent. We speak to a student activist and writer from Athens.

Guest: Nikos Lountos, Greek activist and writer. He’s with the Socialist Workers Party in Greece and a graduate student in political philosophy at Panteion University in Athens.

AMY GOODMAN: Protests, riots and clashes with police have overtaken Greece for the sixth straight day since the fatal police shooting of a teenage boy in Athens Saturday night. One day after Wednesday’s massive general strike over pension reform and privatization shut down the country, more than a hundred schools and at least fifteen university campuses remain occupied by student demonstrators. A major rally is expected on Friday. And as solidarity protests spread to neighboring Turkey, as well as Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Denmark and the Netherlands, dozens of arrests have been made across the continent.

On Wednesday, two police officers involved in Saturday’s shooting were arrested, and one was charged with murder. But anger remains high over the officers’ failure to express remorse at the student’s death. The police officers claim the bullet that killed Alexandros Grigoropoulos was fired in self-defense, and the death was an accident caused by a ricochet.

The unrest this week has been described as the worst since the end of the military dictatorship in 1974 and could cost the already weakened Greek economy an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s also shaken the country’s conservative government that has a narrow one-person majority in Parliament. The socialist opposition has increased calls for the prime minister to quit and call new elections, ignoring his appeals for national unity.

I’m joined now on the telephone by a student activist and writer from Athens. He’s with the Greek Socialist Workers Party. He’s a graduate student in political philosophy at Panteion University in Athens.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! Can you lay out for us exactly when this all began and how the protests have escalated and what they’re about right now, Nikos Lountos?

NIKOS LOUNTOS: Yes, Amy. I’m very glad to talk with you.

So, we are in the middle of an unprecedented wave of actions now and protests and riots. It all started on Saturday evening at around 9:00 p.m., when a policeman patrolling the Exarcheia neighborhood in Athens shot and murdered in cold blood the fifteen-year-old schoolboy Alexis.

The first response was an attempt to cover up the killing. The police claimed that they had been attacked. But the witnesses all around were too many for this cover-up to happen. So, all the witnesses say that it was a direct shot. So even the government, in just a few hours, had to claim that it will move against the police, trying to calm the anger.

But the anger exploded in the streets. In three, four hours, all the streets around Athens were filled with young people demonstrating against the police brutality. The anti-capitalist left occupied the law school in the center of Athens and turned it into headquarters for action. And on Sunday, there was the first mass demonstration. Thousands of people of every age marched towards the police headquarters and to the parliament. And the next day, on Monday, all this had turned into a real mass movement all around Greece.

What was the most striking was that in literally every neighborhood in every city and town, school students walked out of their school on Monday morning. So you could see kids from eleven to seventeen years old marching in the streets wherever you could be in Greece, tens of thousands of school students, maybe hundreds of thousands, if you add all the cities. So, all around Athens and around Greece, there were colorful demonstration of schoolboys and schoolgirls. Some of them marched to the local police stations and clashed with the police, throwing stones and bottles. And the anger was so really thick that policemen and police officers had to be locked inside their offices, surrounded by thirteen- and fourteen-year-old boys and girls.

The picture was so striking that it produced a domino effect. The trade unions of teachers decided an all-out strike for Tuesday. The union of university lecturers decided a three-day strike. And so, there was the already arranged, you know, the strike you mentioned for Wednesday against the government’s economic policies, so the process was generalizing and still generalizes.

AMY GOODMAN: Nikos Lountos, when you have this kind of mass protest, even with the beginning being something so significant as the killing of a student, it sounds like it’s taken place in like a dry forest when a match is thrown, a lit match, that it has caught on fire something that has been simmering for quite some time. What is that?

NIKOS LOUNTOS: Yeah, that’s true. Everybody acknowledges that even the riots, the big riots—you may have seen the videos—they are a social phenomenon, not just the result of some political incident. There were thousands of angry young people that came out in the streets to clash with the police and smash windows of banks, of five-star hotels and expensive stores. So, that’s true. It was something that waited to happen.

I think it’s a mixture of things. We have a government that’s—a government of the ruling party called New Democracy, a very right-wing government. It has tried to make many attacks on working people and students, especially students. The students were some form of guinea pigs for the government. When it was elected after 2004, they tried—the government tried to privatize universities, which are public in Greece, and put more obstacles for school students to get into university. The financial burden on the poor families if they want their children to be educated is really big in Greece. And the worst is that even if you have a university degree, even if you are a doctor or lawyer, in most cases, young people get a salary below the level of poverty in Greece. So the majority of young people in Greece stay with their families ’til their late twenties, many ’til their thirties, in order to cope with this uncertainty. And so, this mixture, along with the economic crisis and their unstable, weak government, was what was behind all this explosion.

AMY GOODMAN: Nikos Lountos is a Greek activist and writer. Nikos, the protests have been picked up not only in Greece, but around the world. We’re talking about the Netherlands, talking also about Russia and Italy and Spain and Denmark and Germany. What does it mean to the workers and the students in Greece now? How significant is that? Has that changed the nature of the protests back in Greece?

NIKOS LOUNTOS: It’s very good news for us to know that many people around the world are trying to show their solidarity to us. And I think it’s not only solidarity, but I think it’s the same struggle against police brutality, for democracy, against war, against poverty. It’s the same struggle. So it’s really good news for us to hear about that.

I think you should know that the next Thursday will be the next day of action, of general action. Every day will have action, but next Thursday will be a day of general action. The students will be all out. And we’re trying to force the leaders of the trade unions to have a new general strike. So I could propose to people hearing me now that next Thursday would be a good day for solidarity action all around the world, to surround the Greek embassies, the consulates, so generally to get out in the streets and express your solidarity to our fight. And I think workers and students in Greece will really appreciate it.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the issue of civil liberties overall in Greece? Has this been a matter of controversy over time?

NIKOS LOUNTOS: Yeah. This government has a really awful record on civil liberties. It all began during the Olympics of 2004, aided also by the so-called anti-terrorist campaign started by George Bush after 9/11. During the Olympic Games, we had the first cameras in the streets of Athens. And there are now proofs that many phones were tapped illegally at that period, among them the phones of the leaders of the antiwar movement here in Greece, such as the coordinators of the Stop the War Coalition.

And then came the biggest scandal of all. In 2005, tens of Pakistani immigrants were abducted from their homes by unknown men. They were hooded and interrogated and then thrown away after some days in the streets of Athens. The Greek police, along with the British MI5, had organized these illegal abductions in coordination with the then-Pakistani government of Pervez Musharraf.

During the student movements and the workers’ strikes all these years, hundreds of beatings and more police brutality have covered up. Just one month ago, a Pakistani immigrant called Mohammed Ashraf was murdered by riot police in Athens when the police dispersed the crowd of immigrants waiting to apply for a green card. And the immigrants in Greece in general are mainly from regions hit by war—Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan. And they are treated in awful conditions by the Greek state and police. Many people have died by shells in the borders or in the Aegean Sea, trying to get into Greece and then Europe. So it’s really an awful record for the government on civil liberties.

AMY GOODMAN: Nikos Lountos, finally, as we travel from Sweden to Germany, one of the things we’re looking at is the effect of the US election on the rest of the world. In a moment, we’ll be joined by the editor-in-chief of Der Spiegel, the largest magazine in Europe. When President-elect Obama was elected, their headline was “President of the World.” What is the effect of the election of Barack Obama on people you know in Greece? What has been the reaction?

NIKOS LOUNTOS: Well, you know, all these years we had a slogan here in the antiwar movement and the student movement that George Bush is the number-one terrorist. So, many people were happy when they learned that these will be the final days of George Bush and his Republican hawkish friends like John McCain. But, of course, people in Greece have experienced that having a different government doesn’t always mean that things will be better. If the movement doesn’t put its stamp on the changes, changing only persons will have no meaning. But people have appreciated the change in the US administration as a message of change all over the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Nikos Lountos, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Greek activist and writer. He’s with the Socialist Workers Party in Greece and a graduate student in political philosophy at Panteion University in Athens.

Source

Clashes erupt in Montenegro over Kosovo

Oct 14 2008
Clashes erupt in Montenegro over Kosovo

Blasts were heard and ambulances streaming out of the centre of Montenegro’s capital as pro-Serb demonstrators clashed with police during a rally against Montenegro’s recognition of Kosovo’s independence.

Some 10,000 pro-Serbian protesters took to the streets of Podgorica for a rally against the government’s decision last week to recognise the independence of Kosovo, as the opposition harshly criticised the ruling coalition for “stabbing Serbia in the back.”

The protesters chanted “Treason! Treason!” and “Kosovo is Serbia!”, as opposition leaders gave Premier Milo Djukanovic a 48 hour deadline to annul the recognition of Kosovo, or face a referendum on the issue.

Both demonstrators and police officers were among the injured and witnesses saw a number of ambulances taking the wounded to a nearby hospital.

It is not clear what exactly triggered the clashes, but the violence broke out as protesters marched by the government building, reportedly throwing firecrackers and molotov cocktails towards the police cordon which was securing the area.

Demonstrators also demolished the fence around the government building, and police responded by firing the tear gas into the crowd.

In addition, police helicopters hovered over the centre of Podgorica.

Police have made at least a dozen arrests.

Following the violence, protesters dispersed across the capital but sporadic clashes were still being reported.

Miodrag Vukovic, a high-ranking official from the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, blamed the incidents on the opposition, saying their political rivals have chosen a wrong tactic to express their dissatisfaction.

“This looks like the 1997 attempt to overthrow the government… But Montenegro has matured since then,” Vukovic said.

About a third of Montenegro’s population declare themselves as Serbs, while ethnic Albanians make up around seven per cent of the population of this small coastal republic.

Montenegro was also in a loose federation with Serbia up until a referendum on independence in 2006.
Podgorica recognized Kosovo`s independence on October 9, leading Belgrade to expel Montenegro’s ambassador.

Montenegro’s decision came just a day after the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of Belgrade’s request for the International Court of Justice to render an opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s unilaterally declared independence in mid-February.

Source

Montenegro opposition to rally over Kosovo

The pro-Serbian opposition in Montenegro will hold a rally in the afternoon of October 13, to urge the government to withdraw its decision to recognize Kosovo’s independence, or call a referendum on the issue.

Podgorica’s decision to recognise Kosovo as an independent state has seriously disrupted relations between the ruling coalition and the opposition, which has also called for early parliamentary elections.

“We want to articulate the popular will on this issue”, the president of the opposition Socialist Peoples Party Srdjan Milic said. He said most Montenegrins do not support the government’s move to recognise Kosovo’s independence.

Despite harsh language between the government and opposition over the weekend, local analysts expect the overall situation to remain calm, and both sides have called on their supporters to remain calm.

About a third of Montenegro’s population declare themselves as Serbs, while ethnic Albanians make up around seven per cent of the population of this small coastal republic.

Montenegro’s police chief, Veselin Veljovic, said that police were prepared to prevent any disturbances during the rally. “The organisers have been warned to respect their obligations and responsibilities regarding public order,” he said.

Podgorica recognised Kosovo’s independence on October 9, leading Belgrade to expel Montenegro’s ambassador.

Montenegro’s decision came just a day after the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of Belgrade’s request for the International Court of Justice to render an opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s unilaterally declared independence in mid-February.


Serb Paramilitaries on Trial for Kosovo War Crimes
October 6 2008
Belgrade
The trial of the so-called ‘Scorpion’ paramilitary group, who are accused of crimes during the 1998-1999 Kosovo conflict, resumed Monday at Belgrade’s War Crimes Chamber.

Zeljko Djukic, Dragan Medic, Dragan Borojevic and Miodrag Solaja are accused of attacking 19 civilians, all women and children, in Podujevo on March 28, 1999. Fourteen people were killed during the attack although five children survived.

Six other members of the Scorpion Paramilitary have already been tried and sentenced for the same attack the four are standing trial for now.

Scorpion Unit Commander Slobodan Medic was sentenced to 20 years in prison, member Sasa Cvijetin was sentenced to 20 years behind bars, Pera Petrasevic received 13 years, Branislav Medic’s jail term was reduced from 20 to 15 years, Aleksandar Vukov was cleared of all charges and Aleksandar Medic, who was originally sentenced to five years, was granted a retrial by the court.
Source

Olli Rehn

Olli Rehn
October 16 2008
Brussels _ The EU has urged Serbian officials to be constructive over Kosovo, especially in regards to the deployment of the bloc’s EULEX law and order mission.

“It is important that we all, including the Serbian government, work towards making EULEX’s deployment a success, and in this regard we expect a constructive approach”, said the bloc’s Enlargement Commissioner, Olli Rehn.

“After the vote at the United Nations General Assembly, the result of which was no drama or no surprise, it is now important that we all work in order to ensure overall regional stability and the enhancement of rule of law in Kosovo and elsewhere in the region,” he added.

This was the commissioner’s response to the latest message from Serbian President Boris Tadic that they would cooperate with the mission but only under certain conditions.

In the interview for Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti, Tadic emphasised that Belgrade would condition the European mission’s presence in Kosovo on a green light from the UN Security Council, ask the current United Nations Mission to retain its neutral stance towards the status of Serbia’s former province and, last but not least, call for plans to implement the blueprint for Kosovo’s independence devised by former UN envoy and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Martti Ahtisaari, to be dropped.

Rehn also reminded Serbia’s politicians that good neighbourly relations are of outmost importance under a EU pre-membership deal called the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, which Belgrade signed with Brussels at the end of April.

“We underline the importance of overall regional stability, and for that it is important that Serbia has a constructive approach to the Kosovo issue and the deployment of the EULEX mission which aims to ensure stability in Kosovo and the region, and citizens rights and rule of law for all the citizens of Kosovo,” Rehn said in Brussels.

Rehn earlier met Serbian deputy prime minister Mladjan Dinkic on Thursday to whom he congratulated the decision of the government to unilaterally start the implementation of trade-related parts of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.

According to Rehn, this will be very useful in building a convincing track record when Serbia gets EU candidate status.

October 16 2008

Belgrade _ Serbia’s President Boris Tadic says a compromise with Brussels is possible over the deployment of the European Union’s new law-and-order mission to Kosovo.

Tadic said Belgrade wants to find a compromise to the deployment of the 2,200-strong European Union mission to Kosovo, known as EULEX but with blessing of the United Nations Security Council.

The world’s top security body remains divided on the issue since veto-wielding member Russia, strongly backs Serbia’s territorial integrity and has previously echoed Belgrade’s concerns that EULEX seeks to formalise Kosovo’s independence.

“We are working on that in all international forums, with the UN Security Council and the EU, with officials from Russia and the United States, with everyone who is vitally important in the future of Kosovo and Serbia,” Tadic told Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti.

However Tadic emphasised that Belgrade would condition the European mission’s presence in Kosovo on a green light from the UN Security Council, ask the current United Nations Mission to retain its neutral stance towards the status of Serbia’s former province and, last but not least, call for plans to implement the blueprint for Kosovo’s independence devised by former UN envoy and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Martti Ahtisarri, to be dropped.

“Anyone who finds fault with these principles has a problem with logic. There are political parties that are trying to fool Serbian citizens and ‘guarantee’ that EULEX will implement independence in Kosovo. We are going to fight to make sure that does not happen,” Tadic said.

The move towards a compromise between Belgrade and Brussels was also signalled by the EU’s special representative in Kosovo, Pieter Feith, who said that “recent consultations” between Serbia, the EU and New York opened the possibility for a widely acceptable solution for EULEX.

“There is a possibility that consultations between Belgrade, the EU and New York result with some kind of solution and the UN’s authorisation for EULEX. But I believe there is no real need for that,” Feith said, adding that the EU looks forward to cooperation with Belgrade on the matter soon.

The positive signals followed warnings from international think-tanks such as the International Crisis Group that divisions between Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority and some 100,000 remaining Serbs have widened following Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia on February 17.

The United Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, which has administered Kosovo since the end of the 1998-1999 conflict between Serb forces and ethnic Albanians, has been wrapping up its mission under a procedure it calls ‘reconfiguration.’

EULEX is due to become the main international body in Kosovo, although its powers will be largely supervisory – particularly relating to the fields of policing and the judiciary.

But EULEX’s ability to fully deploy some eight months after Brussels okayed its biggest ever security and defence policy operation has given western powers cause for concern.

Critically it lacks a mandate from the UN Security Council since Russia has vowed to block any changes to Kosovo’s status which do not have approval from Serbia.

Belgrade and Moscow have also used this shortcoming to argue Kosovo’s independence is in fact illegal under international law.

Adding to EULEX’s woes is the question of whether it could ever deploy across the whole territory of Kosovo.

Kosovo Serbs, particularly those living north of the River Ibar, where they make up a majority, have so far defied Kosovo’s independence thanks to political and financial assistance from Belgrade.

They are also likely to put up stiff resistance against the EULEX mission.

“UNMIK remains our only legitimate partner in Kosovo,” Serbia’s Minister for Kosovo Goran Bogdanovic said, rejecting the EU’s announcements that its mission will be fully operational by December on the whole territory of Kosovo.

The UN mission has tried to take up Serbia’s concerns by opening up direct negotiations on local governance in Serb-dominated areas of Kosovo.

Such talks are to focus on areas such as police, courts and customs but little progress has been made so far.

Not only have the areas of dispute proved too complex for both sides to address but Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leaders have also vented their frustration at being left out of the talks, expressed in their arguments that Kosovo’s sovereignty ‘cannot be compromised.’
Rehn also reminded Serbia’s politicians that good neighbourly relations are of outmost importance under a EU pre-membership deal called the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, which Belgrade signed with Brussels at the end of April.

“We underline the importance of overall regional stability, and for that it is important that Serbia has a constructive approach to the Kosovo issue and the deployment of the EULEX mission which aims to ensure stability in Kosovo and the region, and citizens rights and rule of law for all the citizens of Kosovo,” Rehn said in Brussels.

Rehn earlier met Serbian deputy prime minister Mladjan Dinkic on Thursday to whom he congratulated the decision of the government to unilaterally start the implementation of trade-related parts of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.


October 16 2008 Belgrade _ Serbia’s government has unanimously backed a move to begin implementing reforms outlined in a key pre-membership deal with the EU despite the bloc having frozen the agreement.

Serbia hopes that by unilaterally taking up the key reforms prescribed in the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, Belgrade will be able to become a European Union candidate once the deal is unfrozen.

“The main goal is to shorten the time between implementation of the agreement and Serbian candidature for EU membership,” Premier Mirko Cvetkovic said after the open session of the Serbian government.

The parts of the key agreement with the EU will be implemented immediately but the rest of package, including new, lower custom taxes on the import of cars, will come into force from January, Serbian officials said earlier.

European officials have urged Serbia to begin implementing the deal unilaterally, despite the fact that there has been no EU consensus on backing Belgrade’s drive for membership.

Only one country, the Netherlands, has opposed ratification of the interim trade agreement with Belgrade.

The main reason behind such a stance according to the Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen, was Belgrade’s failure to arrest and extradite to The Hague the former military chief of Bosnian Serbs, Ratko Mladic, wanted for genocide and war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 conflict.

Serbia’s pro-European government has made EU integration its key priority. EU officials earlier signalled that Serbia could achieve candidate status next year.

When the Serbian parliament ratified the Stabilisation and Association Agreement last month, the hardline opposition Radical Party, which has traditionally opposed EU membership, abstained from voting, a move which may signal the emergence of a greater national consensus on Serbia’s European objectives.