The Colombian human rights group Red de Defensores (Defenders Network) reports in a May 10 alert of a massive illegal detainment of over 100 students, mostly minors, by an elite National Police unit in the conflicted oil city of Barrancabermeja. The students had been peacefully occupying their school buildings continuously since April 18 to protest budget cut-backs and the laying off of teachers. On April 24, one of the occupied schools, the Colegio Diego Hernández de Gallegos, was invaded by men who identified themselves as paramilitaries and threatened the students. Then, at dawn on May 5, ten of the schools were invaded by the National Police, who arrested 113 students and members of their families. Two of the students' fathers were beaten, and five members of the Syndicated Workers Union (USO), who had been supporting the strike, were also detained. All are still being held without charge at the National Police Magdalena Medio Operation Command post outside the city. The Metropolitan Anti-Disturbance Security Corps (SMAD), the elite unit reposnible for much recent violence in Colombia, carried out the raids.
The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) is requesting international support for a campaign to free three imprisoned trade union leaders in Eritrea. Tewelde Ghebremedhin, chair of Eritrea's IUF-affiliated food and beverage workers' federation, and Minase Andezion, secretary of the textile and leather workers' federation, were arrested by security police on March 30 and remain in detention. They were detained at the offices of the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers. On April 9, police arrested Habtom Weldemicael, who heads the Coca-Cola Workers Union and is a member of the food and beverage workers' federation executive. According to some reports, Weldemicael was urging an industrial action to protest the catastrophic decline in workers' living standards. The three are being held incommunicado and without charges beyond the legal 48 hours within which detainees must be brought before a magistrate. Reports indicate that they are being held in a secret security prison in Asmara.
Among the commemorations around the world of the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany was a memorial service at Boston's Faneuil Hall marking the liberation of the death camps. Around 20 members of a neo-Nazi group from Arkansas called White Revolution travelled all the way to Massachusetts to protest the May 8 memorial. They marched through Boston's streets without a permit, and waved Jew-hating placards and slabs of ham outside the hall. While the memorial organizers, including Boston's Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Mayor Thomas M. Menino, urged attendees to ignore the Nazi rabble, hundreds of anti-racist counter-protesters took to the streets. (Boston Herald, May 9) There were some scuffles, and two arrests--a Black counter-protester and a white Nazi-symp, who apparently traded blows. There were a few minor injuries, including a Jewish high school student from Brookline who received a gash above his eye from a police baton. (Boston Herald again)
The Spanish anarchist website A Las Barricadas reports that Nicolás Neira Alvarez, a 15-year-old student who was marching with an anarchist contingent May 1 in Bogota when it was attacked by the riot police, has died of injuries sustained that day. Nicolas died on the sixth in the hospital, after five days in a coma.
Did anyone catch this one? What a shame the EU wimped out...
On April 21 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights voted 22-8 with 23 abstentions against a resolution proposed by Cuba for the organization to investigate charges of human rights abuses against some 500 Muslim and Mideastern prisoners the US is holding at its naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The commission then unanimously passed a resolution to designate a special rapporteur to monitor human rights violations carried out in the name of the "war against terrorism"; this resolution was introduced by Mexico, which had also backed the Cuban resolution. The votes occurred on the next-to-last day of the commission's annual meeting in Geneva.
Hey, anyone remember Haiti?
At least five Haitians were killed on April 27 in an exchange of fire between police and demonstrators during a march in Port-au-Prince. Police agents, many wearing black cloth masks over their faces, were seen firing at demonstrators, and five bodies lay on the street afterward, some with wounds in the back; several others were injured. Both sides accused the other of shooting first. Gunfire broke out just after the demonstrators passed a headquarters building for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The protesters were calling for the return of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the release of imprisoned members of his administration and an end to political persecution by the interim government. (Haiti Support Group News Briefs, April 27 from Reuters)
The "peak oil" phenomenon, which has so far received more serious treatment in the foreign press than here in the USA, is starting to break through to the mainstream--at least among the business media. On May 4, Bloomberg.com opinion columnist Matthew Lynn asks "Are You Ready to Sign Up for the $100 Oil Club?" He writes: