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(en) SchNEWS 427, Friday 17th October, 2003

From Jo Makepeace <webmaster@schnews.org.uk>
Date Fri, 17 Oct 2003 17:29:01 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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Bolivia's capital city La Paz means 'peace' in Spanish but over
the past month this high altitude town, drenched in tear gas and
dead bodies, has come to resemble anything but peace. With tens of
thousands of people flooding into the streets, setting up burning
barricades and hurling sticks of dynamite at a murderous military,
the country is teetering on the brink of full-blown revolution.
Over 70 people have been killed by the army in demonstrations that
flared up after the government announced plans to sell its natural
gas to the U.S. and Mexico, a deal imposed by the IMF
(International Monetary Fund) that would supposedly bring $US1.5
billion a year to the dirt poor South American country. The
throngs of protesters in the streets complain, however, that
Bolivia would only get 18 percent of the profits and that even
these crumbs wouldn't reach the mouths of the power-starved

Repression of this dissent reached a peak on Sunday when 25
protesters were killed and nearly 100 injured in El Alto, a city
near La Paz. Many injured couldn't be recovered because police and
military were shooting at anything that moved. 28 more protesters
were killed the following day during clashes between demonstrators
and security forces in La Paz and El Alto. "They come to surround
us with planes and helicopters and tanks. Not even animals are
killed like this," said one Aymara woman in El Alto.

More street clashes erupted on Tuesday as enraged demonstrators
screamed for President Sanchez de Lozada to go. Protesters dug up
roads with picks and barricaded highways to block traffic while
supplies of food, fuel and other necessities to La Paz and El Alto
ran dangerously low. Although de Lozada announced that he's gonna
shelve the gas export plan, protesters have demanded "resignation
or nothing" from a president who enjoys 8% popularity. As De
Lozada sits in his barricaded mansion his power base is quickly
eroding. Apart from the support of the US, which has generously
supplied the Bolivian joint military command with top-ranking
officials, he has very few supporters. Coming on the heels of the
vice president's announcement that he did not agree with De
Lozada's actions, Bolivia's armed forces said on Tuesday that the
military would no longer support De Lozada "as an individual" but
would respect the constitution and the elected government.

As De Lozada's grip on power becomes weaker, the country's social
movement is growing stronger. In El Alto despite martial law more
than 90% of the town remains under the control of neighbourhood
assemblies, market vendors, university students and the Regional
Workers' Central, as it enters the fifth day of 'civic strike'. In
total one and a half million residents of La Paz and El Alto have
paralysed any semblance of 'normal' life. Streets lie deserted,
windows and doors are daubed in black and flags at half mast as
funeral processions mourn the murdered. The strike called by the
Bolivian Workers Central and the Federation of Neighbourhood
Assemblies of El Alto has brought the cities to a silent halt.


The current 'gas wars' have once again brought the Bolivian social
movement to the mountain peak of international attention. It first
burst onto the political scene with the 'water wars' of Cochabamba
three years ago when US multinational Bechtel was handed control
of the water system of Bolivia's third largest city (see SchNEWS
339) Within weeks of the takeover, Bechtel hit poor families with
massive increases in bills, sparking off a popular rebellion of
the jobless, single mothers and working people. Money-thirsty
Bechtel were duly kicked out of the country, the water system was
placed under control of a local committee and the young,
grassroots social movement tasted the success of direct action.

In their clandestine deal with the Bolivian government, Bechtel
fat cats were given assurance that the government could handle any
protests that might erupt. To defend the water-grabbing
multinational's contract the Bolivian government imposed martial
law and fired live rounds at its own people. And even that didn't
stop the popular rebellion from bursting Bechtel's bubble (who
ended up successfully suing the Bolivian state for the $25 million
profits they lost.) Pacific LNG, the company trying to build the
Bolivian gas pipeline, seems to be following in Bechtel's
footsteps, having tanks sent out in their favour before the dodgy
pipeline is even built. Do these corporations never learn?

The Bolivian social movement erupted once again in Feb' this year
in retaliation to yet another IMF-imposed policy (see SchNEWS
393). Thousands of students and workers demonstrated while
protesting police were shot at by the military in a huge
mobilisation against income tax rises that would hit the poor and
lower middle classes hardest. De Lozada's government was shaken
and he quickly withdrew the policy.
Bolivia, like much of S. America, is resisting capital and
powerlessness with new, diverse social movements. There are many
similarities between the Bolivian situation and the IMF-caused
Argentinian social rebellion.

Bolivia, like Argentina, has been a model student of IMF reforms,
and is now also a broken window of failure in free market
fundamentalism. After almost 2 decades of 'structural adjustment'
Bolivia is one of the least prosperous countries in S. America,
having lost its tin, rubber and silver over the years through a
jungle of export 'deals'. Unlike Argentina, though, the Bolivian
social movement has party politics at its core. Where Argentina
saw the explosion of people discovering new forms of grassroots
power through the creation of neighbourhood assemblies and
squatted social centres, the Bolivian movement is led mainly by
the losing socialist presidential candidate, Evo Morales, and his
party Movimento al Socialismo.

However there's still powerful diversity in the Bolivian
resistance. The indigenous Aymara peasants have a strong presence,
demanding the return of their stolen lands and control over their
mining and petrol interests. The small-scale coca growers are also
part of the movement as they struggle against the US's nightmarish
war on drugs. Add to them the students, workers, unions, and
neighbourhood assemblies and you see the Bolivian state and
international capital have got a fight on their hands. As
Cochabamba-based democracy activist David Schultz says: "In some
of the world's most humble people, the would-be makers of economic
commandments may well have met their match."

As rebellion spreads all over the mountains and towns; as 2,500
miners march from Huindini to La Paz blockading major roads and
resisting the army with sticks of dynamite; as swelling,
tear-gassed protests flood Cochabamba; as blockades throughout the
southern highlands continue; as the movement declares that it will
continue with mass actions - the silent truce in the cities as
thousands mourn the dead seems to many as the calm before the
storm. La Paz looks set to be without peace for some time to come.

Honduras: The IMF seem intent on spreading social rebellion around
South America. It went to Honduras this week to see if the country
qualified for nearly $1billion of debt relief - and what did it
get? Tens of thousands rioting on the streets of the capital
Tegucigalpa. It might be because the people of Honduras are well
aware that this debt relief comes with strings attached which call
for countries to 'slim down' their social programmes and public
spending. The last time the IMF were in town, earlier this year,
to broker a new $1billion loan tens of thousands kicked off on the
streets. No wonder seeing as 40% of the national budget goes
towards servicing the debt rather than social services.


Crap Arrest Of The Week

For dressing up as Santa Claus!
A German man who wore Santa Claus clothing over his motorbike suit
while protesting against a Nazi march has been fined £140. Cops
nicked him for breaking Germany's ban on masking your face during
demonstrations, and also claimed his biking suit amounted to
"passive weaponry"! At the trial a meteorologist confirmed that it
had been a cold, wet day, which justified the biking suit while
photos showed him pulling down his beard to look into a camera.
Charges were dropped after he agreed to pay a fine. Friends now
call him St. Nicked. Ho, Ho, Ho!



Last week Jarvis decided to "jump before it was pushed" and pull
out of rail track maintenance. The engineering giant complained
the work was no longer profitable and was damaging its reputation.
And what a reputation. Still under police investigation for last
year's Potters Bar train crash, in which seven people died, they
at first tried to blame rail vandals for the crash. Last month the
removal of a rail by one of their employees led to the derailment
of an Inter-City train at London Kings Cross, similar to the
derailment of a coal train at Aldwarke junction in Yorkshire last
November. The year before the company were prosecuted by the
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for "unsafe practice during
railway maintenance work" and fined for nearly running over
several track workers. In July 1999 they were fined after a worker
lost an eye after they had failed to carry out a proper risk
assessment and had too few staff working on the track. A year
later they were fined £500,000 after two separate train
derailments because it "failed to check the track before trains
were allowed to run, exposing employees and passengers to risk of
injury." In October 2000, 41 year old Mark Meadowcroft was killed
by a train while working for Jarvis.

Jarvis complained that new contracts introduced by Network Rail
carried such stringent penalty clauses that "frankly we could
never be able to make a satisfactory profit". RMT union boss Bob
Crow said: "The safety culture on Britain's railways has been
fundamentally undermined by fragmentation. We have contractors who
use sub-contractors, sub-contractors who use agencies, agencies
who use casual labour and they're all in it for profit, not

The company had hoped to sell its maintenance business but this
was vetoed. 3,500 of its workers will now transfer to Network Rail
leaving it in direct control of 40% of railway maintenance - which
unions say is equivalent to public ownership.

Still, rail maintenance accounts for less than 15% of the
company's turnover and Jarvis can now concentrate on its other
government PFI activities like building schools, universities and
hospitals (see SchNEWS 424). It is also part of the consortium,
Tube Lines, which won the contract to maintain the Jubilee,
Northern and Piccadilly lines on the London Underground. Have a
safe journey!


Bin There - Done That

Residents in Ireland have been busy fighting the Bin Tax which
shifts the costs for disposing of waste from industry and
agriculture, which produces the most waste, onto the general
public, with the poorest sections of society paying relatively
more because the tax is a flat charge regardless of income.

The charge is soon to be imposed in Dublin, and a campaign of
direct action has started up to blockade bin depots. Recently in
an attempt to intimidate people into not protesting, 15 people
were jailed for these actions. However the authorities' tactic
backfired, sparking a number of protests at the jail, council
offices and further blockades of bin depots across the city.
Binmen were sympathetic to the campaign and did not break the
blockades, realising that the tax affects them too, with
privatization of their jobs possibly following. While residents
and workers are resolute in their resistance, the same cannot be
said for the Union leaders, who have refused to support their
workers and some even denouncing the anti-bin tax campaign. The
long term lesson is that the union leaders and structure are crap
and do not serve their members' interests. But a combination of
public action and worker solidarity means that this is a campaign
that they could well win. http://struggle.ws/wsm/bins.html



Since last October Wal-Mart, or as it's known in this country
Asda, has been trying to build a massive supermarket on the Old
Kent Road but thanks to local people, so far they have gotten
nowhere. After physically resisting 3 evictions the campaign is
still going strong. Old Kent Road, one of the poorest parts of
London, doesn't need another supermarket as there are already
three large ones plus many more local shops (which would probably
go out of business if another Asda was built). What the area does
need is a large community centre. There are 100,000 people living
in estates within a mile of the site and understandably there is a
high crime and apathy rate in the area.

So a call has gone out for people to come down and help, as the
activists say "Whatever help you can offer including people to
resist evictions we would be very grateful indeed. We would love
to accommodate anyone with skills in permaculture, organics,
alternative energy etc. Bearing in mind the conditions are pretty
rough (we have had our water and electricity cut off many times).
We see this as a wider issue, of globalization, about profit over
people and a breakdown in communities internationally." For
directions to the site phone 07906 440336


Pull The Other One!

Yesterday the government published the reports of the farm scale
trials of genetically modified (GM) crops. The report reveals that
two of the crops (oil seed rape and beet) cause more of a
reduction in farmland wildlife than conventional crops. A
different problem applied to the GM maize: the weedkiller used in
the trial is banned by the European Union invalidating the tests.

If the government does go ahead then it will have to deal with the
1,500 people who have vowed to pull up GM crops. This follows a
successful summer of action with all this year's national seed
list trials (where new strains are tested) being destroyed. If you
haven't yet done so, sign the Pledge. 01865 727972

Big Noise Demo against Bayer (the number one GM company in
Britain) 10am onwards, 13th November outside their HQ in Newbury.
07092 036576 www.stopbayergm.org. Transport from Brighton tickets
£5 from Cowley Club, London Road For transport from Leeds email

The UK field trials didn't look at cross contamination by GM
crops, but in Mexico contamination by genetically modified maize
crops of traditional varieties were found in 24% of samples with
some samples showing the presence of up to four different GM
types. Similar results have been found in Spain where the only
European GM crop is being grown. The GM maize has resulted in the
first case of an organic farmer losing their organic status due to
GM contamination.


SchNEWS In Brief

** Treat yourself to a trip to the seaside! This Saturday (18)
Hastings Against War is holding a conference 'Waging War, Making
Peace' 10 am-5pm, White Rock Theatre, Hastings. Tel. 0845 458 9572
for details

** London Action Resource Centre are having a People's Global
Action info & social night next Friday (24) 7pm @ LARC, 62
Fieldgate St., London E1 0207 377 9088 www.londonarc.org

** Peter Tatchell will be talking next Wednesday (22) 8pm at
Quaker Meeting House, 74 Ragstone Road, Slough - about the failure
of the western peace movement to offer a viable alternative to
Saddam regime, and what should happen next. www.slough4peace.net

** Noise Art Exhibition next Friday (24) with Scrap Records DJ's
and SchNEWS info and videos from 4-11pm. at New Foundary, 84-86
Great Eastern St., London EC 2 (nearest tube Old St - take 2nd
exit). Plus bands from 4pm the next day including Dead Plants

** The world's largest arms manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, isn't
exactly skint. Yet when antiwar activists blockaded its California
headquarters in protest at its central role in the arms trade and
Iraq, it sued the 52 protesters for the $41,000 it claimed were
security costs for the demo. But last week a dangerous precedent
against direct action was prevented when a judge threw the case
out when Lockheed conceded it wasn't "fair to force protesters to
underwrite its security costs." www.stoplockheed.org

** A regional Indymedia for the south east of England is about to
be started. All living in Kent, Hampshire, Surrey & Sussex are
invited to be involved, and there will be a meeting at the Cowley
Club, 21 London Rd Brighton on Tues 21st at 7.30pm.



Ever heard of Yeveran? Ever thought about visiting Tblisi? Or
Baku? Not many people pay much attention to these capital cities
or the Caucasian countries of Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan to
which they belong. Nor are people aware of the many environmental
and social problems that have arisen in this often forgotten
corner of the world since the demise of the Soviet Union. Two
Dutch women have attempted to remedy this ignorance by setting up
Falkor I.C.Y, which aims to establish a network linking activists
in Europe with those working on ecology, human rights, and
independent media projects in the former Soviet republics. Since
it's conception 2 years ago, Falkor has produced a video
documenting the problem of nuclear waste being dumped and stolen
in the region, arranged work placements on educational and
cultural projects for disadvantaged youth, organised group exchang
e programmes, and is currently planning to bring Western Ska and
rock bands to the republics while helping Caucasian bands to tour
over here. www.falkor.org


...and finally...

Picture the scene in Iraq one year on. There has been hardly any
electricity for 18 months, very little water and no-one's been
paid by the occupying forces since they invaded. Attacks by the
resistance are running at about one an hour and lots of U.S. and
British troops prefer the option of court marshal and jail rather
than being target practice for Iraqis. So what does Iraq need?
Well according to "well placed banking and commercial sources"
loads of brand spanking new McDonalds! That's right, within a year
from now these same people envisage the streets of Baghdad to be
covered in burger wrappers instead of spent bullets and bomb
craters. So the US want to replace the guns with a longer, more
drawn out killer instead eh?

McDonalds employees in Paris have been on strike for 6 months and
counting. Not only are they on strike they're also occupying the
restaurant 24/7 shutting it down and turning it into a giant
banner for their cause. Check out



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