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Latin America: Continent of Discontent

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For the third time in three years a spontaneous uprising has forced a neoliberal president to flee from a presidential palace in South America.

First Jamil Mahuad in Ecuador in January 2000, then De La Rua in Argentina in December 2001, and now Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozado in Bolivia.

When miners armed with sticks of dynamite, clubs and rocks joined the crowds thronging the centre of the capital, La Paz, on 17 October they showed the extent to which the movement against corporate globalisation finds its sharpest practical expression on the streets of Latin America.

Unions: London's Not Waiting

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As we go to press, London postal workers look set to go on all-out strike in response to management attacks on CWU reps.

Management has tried to go on the offensive, suspending workers for refusing to carry out duties not in their job description and threatening to derecognise the union.

Workers are increasingly bitter about attacks on pay and conditions, and the cost of living in London. The Unison/CWU one-day strike over London weighting marked a comeback after the loss of the CWU national strike ballot. Now the rank and file is taking the lead.

Social Forums: Feel the Rhythm

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Around 150 people gathered for the launch of the London Social Forum at the start of October.

There were discussions about the role of the media, the Tobin Tax, the anti-war movement and student activism. It was generally critical of the mainstream of the movement. Many speakers argued that the movement relied too much on mass demonstrations and on the power of the unions - in the words of one participant, on the 'ideology of mobilisation'. There was not a clear agreement about what an alternative strategy might be.

Trades Union Congress: Big Battalions Firing Blanks

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On the opening morning of this year‘s TUC conference at Brighton, a small group of demonstrators shouted slogans at delegates as they entered.

These ranged from demands for the TUC to block foundation hospitals to calls for an end to privatisation, racist asylum laws and tuition fees. Scattered among the slogans were, of course, demands for the end of the occupation in Iraq, and Bush and Blair‘s imperial adventures.

Palestine: Israeli Assassins Killing Peace

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The much-vaunted Middle East ’road map to peace‘ has reached a dead end.

The US has even taken the outrageous, if not uncharacteristic, step of vetoing a UN resolution opposing the threatened assassination of Yasser Arafat. Most of the media blame the Palestinians for breaking the truce. However, a different picture emerges if one examines the sequence of events since the Palestinian militant groups Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs declared a three-month truce on 29 June, despite Israeli soldiers killing four Palestinians that very day.

Blink and You'll Miss It

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The narrow vote against national strike action by postal workers came as a shock to many of us in the Communication Workers Union.

Royal Mail bosses, on the other hand, were jubilant. This strengthens their ability to ram through 30,000 redundancies with a staged productivity pay deal. The Financial Times summed it up like this: ’Royal Mail and the CWU were eyeball to eyeball, and 48,000 members of the CWU blinked.‘

Between the Lines

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DLR and Arms Fair - New Job for Nick Leeson - Boots Boss Hears Workers' Suggestions

Why was the Docklands Light Railway so keen to prevent protesters disrupting transport to the recent DSEi arms fair? Perhaps because the Serco group, which runs the DLR, was also a prominent exhibitor. Serco brags of providing ’life cycle value for money‘ training for the MoD, Nato and the US Department of Defence.


While it‘s generally good to hear of ex-prisoners being rehabilitated, news of Nick Leeson‘s new job should raise a few eyebrows. The infamous ’rogue trader‘ who broke Barings bank by gambling away £850 million has found a career in TV - as a financial tipster.

Corporate Talk Costs Lives

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The resort of Cancun seemed the perfect place for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to hold its talks.

The Zona Hotelera, where the convention centre lies, is a strip of land with beautiful beaches on one side and separated from the town by a crocodile-infested lagoon on the other. The Ritz, Sheraton, Meridian and dozens of other multimillion dollar hotels line the strip, and the street signs and shop fronts are written in English: ’liquor store‘, ’drugstore‘, ’T-bone steak‘. The Zona is a playground for the rich of the US, while half the population of Cancun (a town created solely to service the resorts) are without access to basic services such as clean water.

Appealing to Racists

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New Labour‘s descent into the gutter continues apace, with plans to further tighten already draconian anti asylum seeker legislation.

David Blunkett wants to reduce the right of appeal against the Home Office‘s notoriously arbitrary asylum decisions. Even with barriers such as the government‘s ’white list‘ of countries, which it automatically assumes never commit human rights violations, 21 percent of appeal cases are upheld. As Imram Hussein of the Refugee Council has commented, ’If any other government department had a failure rate of one in five that would be a significant cause for concern, and here you are often dealing with matters of life and death.‘

Colombia: Industrial Relations, Paramilitary Style

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War on Want and Justice for Colombia organised a mock execution of 13 British trade union leaders and several MPs outside parliament recently, in a demonstration of solidarity with the terrorised Colombian trade union movement.

Timed to coincide with a closed meeting of Colombian donors hosted by the British government, the event highlighted the plight of Colombian trade unionists, and asked why the British government has consistently chosen the wrong line on Colombia.

Last year 184 trade unionists were assassinated in Colombia while 4,000 civilians were killed for political reasons. Around 400,000 people were also displaced with most forced into stark poverty. In education alone, 27 teachers and lecturers were assassinated in 1999, rising to 83 in 2002.

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