Archive

Daily Archives: 20/01/2011

(signalfire.org)

Senegal Capital Hit by Riots Over Electricity Outages, Pop Says

Protestors blocked roads, lit fires and stoned anti-riot police late yesterday in the outskirts of Senegal’s capital, Dakar, where residents said power had been cut for as long as 34 hours, Le Pop reported.

Police responded with tear-gas grenades and imposed curfews in seven neighborhoods, according to the Dakar-based newspaper.

In October, a report by the country’s state statistical agency said that power outages were costing the average formal sector business in the country 9.6 million West African CFA francs ($19,766) a day.

Source: http://signalfire.org/?p=6716

 

Zambian Miners Riot Over Labor Dispute

Hundreds of Zambian miners working at Chinese-owned NFCA Mining rioted late Monday over a labor dispute with management and blocked a main highway, hampering traffic for several hours, union officials said Wednesday.

Union officials said the miners were protesting the company’s decision to sign a mining contract with a contractor without informing union leaders.

“Management outsourced a contractor to carry out mining operations without informing the workers,” a union official said. The contractor had already started the process of signing new labor contracts with the workers, the official said.

Chinese-owned enterprises have been pumping millions of dollars into Zambia’s mining sector in search of unexploited rich-ore bodies for resource-hungry China. But the Chinese companies’ labor policies are largely unpopular with unions, activists and opposition politicians in Zambia.

Union officials say that workers at the NFCA mine remain the lowest paid in the country. There have been protests at other Chinese-run operations in Zambia in recent years over working conditions and wages, most recently at the Collumn coal mine in Sinazongwe district, during which at least 13 miners were shot by Chinese supervisers in one incident.

On Monday, police fired tear gas to disperse the rioting miners, who had used logs and stones to block the road linking Kitwe, the largest mining city on the province, to Chingola, in the Copperbelt Province. At least 12 miners were arrested during the riots, police said.

Martin Malama, Zambia’s commanding police officer in the Copperbelt Province, said calm had returned to NFCA’s mining units following the police intervention.

“We are going to release the arrested miners today after they have recorded admission of guilt statements,” he said by telephone from Kitwe.

According to Mr. Malama, although the workers had initially been given permission to demonstrate peacefully, it turned violent after a “handful” of them, together with other local people, tried to disrupt traffic.

Oswel Munyenyembe, general secretary of the Miners Union of Zambia, said union representatives were in talks with management Wednesday to resolve the issue.

Union representatives have accused management of breaching the contract signed by workers by not informing them or paying them terminal benefits since they would now work for the outsourced company. Company officials couldn’t be reached for immediate comment.

NFCA, a unit of China Nonferrous Metals Co., operates Luanshya Copper Mines, Chambishi Copper Mines and the 150,000 tons-a-year Chambishi Copper Smelter. The company is also developing the $350 million Milyanshi Copper project, expected to start output in December.

By Wednesday, heavily armed policemen were still deployed around the various units belonging to the company.

In October, at least 13 miners were shot during a riot at another Chinese-owned mine in Zambia’s southern province.

Union officials allege that the Chinese, who have invested heavily in Zambia’s mining sector, have poor labor and safety policies.

Source: http://signalfire.org/?p=6718

(kasamaproject.org) AlJazeera English broadcast “Faultlines” interviews Indian author Arundhati Roy.

This is a very thoughtful and interesting discussion of the big picture (in india and the region) and the sources of Indian state aggression (in both hindu fundamentalism and corporate occupation).

““The Gandhian ethos is a very frightening ethos in the forest; because the Gandhian ethos requires… performance that requires an audience, you know. And in the forest, there’s no audience… in a society that doesn’t belong to the rest of society. How do hungry people go on a hunger strike? How do people who don’t have any money not pay their taxes or do civil disobedience?”

(signalfire.org) Hong Kong, Jan 19 (Kyodo) Police in southern China”s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region shot five people during a protest over unpaid wages over the weekend, a human rights watch dog said today.

The Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said about 100 construction workers of a project in Cangwu County of Wuzhou City were heading to the municipal government building Sunday when they were met by riot police who opened fire on the unarmed crowd.

The Hong Kong-based center quoted a hospital officer as saying that about 20 people were sent to the hospital for treatment, including five who sustained gunshot wounds.

Photographs posted on mainland websites show a crowd believed to be the workers and bystanders facing off with the riot police.

A spokesman for the Wuzhou police department, only identified by his surname Xie, told Kyodo News that the rally was deemed an “illegal march” but he declined to confirm if police opened fire.

The Wuzhou municipal government referred questions to the Cangwu county government, of which the propaganda department could not be reached for comment.

A Guangxi provincial government spokesman said he has not received any report of a shooting in Cangwu.

The center said the contractor of the property development owes the workers USD 151,000 in wages, while other reports said the contractor has fled to adjacent Guangdong Province after the construction was finished. (Kyodo)

Source: http://signalfire.org/?p=6711

(journalism.co.uk)
An Online news service operated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) unwittingly promoted a study making the false claim that catastrophic global warming would occur within nine years, the Guardian reports.

EurekAlert! carried a press release for the study, and the story was picked up by a number of international news organisations including the Vancouver Sun and the Economic Times of India.

“This is happening much faster than we expected,” Liliana Hisas, executive director of the Universal Ecological Fund (UEF) and author of the study, said of her findings.

But, in an episode recalling criticism of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), when the UN climate science body wrongly claimed the Himalayan glaciers would melt away by 2035, the UEF claims about rising temperatures over the next decade were unfounded.

January 20th, 2011 by Joel Gunter

Source:
http://blogs.journalism.co.uk/editors/2011/01/20/guardian-online-news-service-promotes-false-climate-change-study/

(collectiveresistance.com) This article by Basel Saleh first appeared on Global Research in late December and gives some of the economic and political background to events in Tunisa.

Mass and spontaneous demonstrations erupted on Friday, December 17th in the city of Sidi Bouzid (central Tunisia) when Mohammad Bouazizi , a 26 year-old, doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire after a female police officer slapped and spat on him. The only crime Bouazizi committed was that of being a street vendor selling vegetables and fruits without a permit, in a country where neoliberal economic policies failed to provide economic opportunities to Bouazizi and thousands of others like him.[1] Bouazizi’ s attempted suicide, which comes hard on the heels of police humiliation and confiscation of his only source of income, reveals the utter despair prevalent today among Tunisia’s population especially college graduates. Twenty-four years of ruthless corruptions, dictatorship, and neoliberal economic policies led to wealth being concentrated in the hands of very few people connected to President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his wife’s family. Bouazizi, a college graduate,[2] was trying to live in dignity and provide for his family by becoming a street vendor despite living in a country that is considered an economic miracle and one of the African lions by western economic monitors and analysts.[3]

The miserable economic conditions in the interior of the country, lack of employment opportunities and political freedoms pushed Bouazizi, like thousands of other young men and women in the Maghreb countries, to the margins of society. Tunisia’s national unemployment rate, which understates the true unemployment situation, stands at 14%.[4] However, the youth unemployment rate (those between15-24 year-old) is at 31%. The income share of the top 10% is approximately 32%, and the top 20% of the population controls 47% of Tunisia’s income. Tunisia’s inequality is so severe that the bottom 60% of the population earns only 30% (the top 40% take home 70% of the income).[5] Still, the IMF describes the government management of the economy and the uneven economic growth which benefited mainly northern and coastal cities while marginalizing the interior of the country as a “prudent macroeconomic management.”[6]

The despicable behavior of the police officer described above is not uncommon in Tunisia and is condoned by the police state that ignores basic human rights, shows no respect for the dignity of its citizens, and does not tolerate any signs of dissent. Poverty, unemployment and oppression have pushed yet another young man to commit suicide just few days later after Bouazizi’s attempt. On Wednesday, December 22nd, Hussein Nagi Felhi, also unemployed, unfortunately succeeded in committing suicide by climbing a high-voltage electric power line. He was electrocuted and died on the scene. Witnesses say the young man was shouting “no for misery, no for unemployment” as he climbed the electric pylon.[7]

The epidemic of youth unemployment, inequality, political repression, and lack of any meaningful freedoms inflamed solidarity among the population which took to the streets in a spontaneous and unplanned organic protests. Within days of the attempted suicide by Bouazizi and the suicide of Felhi, protests spread across the country and reached the capital Tunis and are still ongoing even in the face of total national media blackout and police brutality which resulted in the killing of an 18 year-old. This is not the first time the dictator of Tunisia Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has faced street anger over joblessness and economic misery during his 24-year reign, but this is by far the most serious challenge to his rule. About three years ago in January 2008, his security apparatus crushed protesters in the southern mining town of Redhayef when workers and young people protested wages and unemployment.[8]At that time, over 300 people were arrested as a result of the protests.[9] However, this time the desperation among the population has reached the boiling point. Aided by social media, some protesters launched a Facebook page to document riots and share news although the government promptly shuts down any protest-linked websites.[10] The demonstrations are increasing in intensity and show no signs of abating. The protesters are fed up with the status quo of a self-enriching and corrupt ruling family which is the de facto governing system in the Middle East and North Africa.

A Western Ally: The Hypocrisy of Western Neoliberal and Foreign Policies

Respect for human rights and freedom of the press is almost nonexistent in Tunisia. The Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom labels Tunisia as ‘mostly unfree’ nation and marginally close to being repressed—its lowest score.[11] Transparency International ranks Tunisia among its seriously corrupt nations with a score of 4.3 out of 10 (10 being free of corruption and 1 as most corrupt), and Tunisia is considered ‘not free’ according to Freedom House Index.[12] This is no surprise in a country where the government controls almost all aspects of people’s lives. Young people are especially tightly controlled and monitored. Even fields of study in post-secondary education are decided by the government where the Ministry of Education, Higher Education and Scientific Research decides in which field of study students will be placed.[13]

Although the protests that are spreading across the country took on the form of social unrest for the first few days, they rapidly metamorphosed over the last ten days to become a mass political rally by the people. The protesters are now on the streets calling openly for the president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to leave office by holding signs in Tunisian Arabic dialect that read “Yezzi Fock” (Ben Ali, it is enough) which has become the protesters’ political slogan. Labor and industry unions which played an active role in public life since independence from France are also supporting the protesters. President Ben Ali, nearing 80, is very aware of the gravity and the real threat to his grip on power. His first reaction was to preempt the protesters by firing some local officials, replace some ministers in his cabinet, and then immediately promising more investment and job creation completely oblivious to his record after 24 years in power. When these empty promises failed to deflate the protesters’ anger, he resorted to the routine policies of riot police and explicit threats directed to his citizens. Facing the most serious unrest in the history of his rule, he took to the airways and gave a televised address in response to the demonstrations. He vowed to punish “the minority of extremists” whom he blamed for the riots (as he calls them) and also indicated that these protests “will have a negative impact on creating jobs. It will discourage investors and tourists which will hit jobs.”[14] It appears that the President’s main concern is the tourism industry which is tightly controlled by his family and that of his wife as revealed by several Wikileaks concerning the economic and financial corruption of the first family.

The Tunisian dictator and his family are touted by Western governments as an example of a stable and progressive North African Muslim nation. The neoliberal economic policies are hailed as prudent and wise by the IMF yet these policies primarily benefited his family, that of his wife in addition to other well-connected wealthy Tunisians. In one incident of corruption revealed by Wikileaks, the Son-in-Law of the President purchased a 17% share of a bank just before it was to be privatized and then sold the shares at a premium. Readings from Wikileaks U.S. diplomatic cables underscore that success in the Tunisian economy is directly related to connection to the first family. Income and regional inequalities are on the rise in Tunisia. Job creation and widespread prosperity promised by defunct orthodox economic dictates never trickled down to the masses or even materialized for most unemployed college graduates where net migration has been steadily increasing rising from -16,000 in 1980 to -80,000 in 2005.

The Tunisian Government is an important ally for the U.S. in its resource-driven colonial wars with Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. A United Nations report on secret detention practices lists Tunisia as having secret detention facilities where prisoners are held without International Red Cross access. [15] Intelligence services in Tunisia cooperated with the U.S. efforts in the War on Terror and have participated in interrogating prisoners at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan and in Tunisia. Recent Wikileaks diplomatic cables reveal that the U.S. not long ago was concerned about the growing anger on the streets and the corruption of Ben Ali and the Trabelsi family (his wife’s family) who treat everything in the country as theirs. A list of Wikileaks cables from the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia posted on The Guardian newspaper website indicate that the U.S. considers Tunisia as a police state “with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems,” and the Ben Ali family as a “quasi mafia.”[16] Nevertheless, the State Department boasts about the active support the Tunisian security forces receive from the U.S. in spite of the Ben Ali’s government record of serious human rights violations. According to the State Department website:

“The United States and Tunisia have an active schedule of joint military exercises. U.S. security assistance historically has played an important role in cementing relations. The U.S.-Tunisian Joint Military Commission meets annually to discuss military cooperation, Tunisia’s defense modernization program, and other security matters.”[17]

The fate of the protests is unclear at this point. The Ben Ali government is frantic to control the situation by sending police and security enforcements in the cities affected by the protests. The protesters have been peaceful and have not resorted to any violence or destruction of property. Some protesters simply held a loaf of bread and others are simply holding signs that call for jobs and dignity. In the meantime, the IMF is continuing to push Tunisia to more austere economic policies on the expenditure side, recommending that the government ends its support for food and fuel products and reform its social security system, a code word for privatizing the pension system in Tunisia which benefits the masses of poor Tunisians.[18]The greatest hypocrisy in all of this is that the IMF recommends these policies in the name of greater employment and growth which is the IMF’s cut-and-paste recipe for all nations it studies.

In the meantime, the Western international community has been largely silent about the protests. The U.S. corporate-run media is as usual busy selling air time to corporations eager to cash in on the Christmas holiday while simultaneously raising their prices to squeeze more out of their customers.[19] The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal didn’t report on the Tunisian protests at all. The U.S. State Department remains tight-lipped on the issue and has yet to release any statement on the situation. The U.S. government’s deafening silence confirms the inherent hypocrisy in U.S. diplomatic and foreign policy that is widely known, detested, and recently confirmed by Wikileaks released U.S. diplomatic cables.

Basel Saleh is an Assistant Professor of Economics and Peace Studies Faculty at Radford University, Virginia. His work on Palestinian suicide bombers is widely cited in national media and academic journals. He is currently writing his book Economics When People Matter due for publication with Kendall Hunt in the summer of 2011. The author can be reached by email bsaleh@radford.edu

Source:
http://collectiveresistance.com/2011/01/15/tunisia-imf-economic-medicine-has-resulted-in-mass-poverty-and-unemployment/