ILC international newsletter No. 174

A dossier of weekly information published by the
International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples
March 14, 2006
Number 174
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The delegates to the Berlin Conference of February 25 and 26 sent us the following correspondence:

From France: an exchange of letters inviting all the Berlin delegates to the national convention for the reconquest of democracy to be held in Paris on May 27 and 28, 2006.

From Turkey: the president of the Bakirkof (Istambul) section of the TEKSIF trade union explains: "According to us there will not be a solution for the workers while labor is not as well organized as capital. There will not be a solution as long as there aren't decent wages and decent working conditions and the chance to orgsanize unions in the third world as well as China."

From Italy: the activists presently engaged in presenting a slate: "Democracy and public services, the unity of the Republic and NO to the European Union" for the municipal elections in Turin have sent us information regarding the recent CGIL congress.

From Ukraine: two documents: one is an "Address of the Labor Collective of the ship repair factory in Azov to the deputies of the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine" to stop the dilapidation of the factory, for a change of ownership and management. The second is a letter from the Labor Collective of the NZF factory asking the president to prevent the privatization of the factory.

Also in Berlin: a Committee of European Liaison of Higher Education Workers was constituted. In its declaration, which we publish, they indicate, "our committee envisages the possibility of a first European meeting before the end of the university year."

In Mexico: On the basis of 2,000 signatures of an appeal launched in July 2005 for the right of López Obrador (former mayor of Mexico City) to run for the presidency, Committees for the Defense of Sovereignty and the Unity of the Nation have been constituted. These committees will have a second national meeting on April 1.

In Burundi: Thirteen years after the genocide, "the macabre process of the disappearance of populations stuns us." In Burundi, 2.2 million of 7 million people are in urgent need of food. This is the result of the policies of the IMF and the World Bank.

From Bolivia: The Morales government has called for a Constituent Assembly tied to a referendum on regional autonomies. The Bolivian trade union federation COB is holding a national expanded leadership meeting. Its responsibility, indicates our correspondent, is to "gather the forces in a National Popular Assembly and to include all the oppressed people, especially the peasants, in order to face this dislocating offensive on the nation and its sovereignty."

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Correspondence from the European Conference held in Berlin on February 25 and 26, 2006.

A proposal by Christian Fleury, Mayor of Bonnetable (Sarthe)

"I would like us to invite representatives from all European countries to our national convention in France."

Christian Fleury, mayor of Bonnetable, was a delegate to the conference in Berlin. To prepare for the national convention to be held in Paris on May 27 and 28, he has proposed that the members of the permanent bureau of the "National Committee for the reconquest of democracy" invite European representatives from all countries who can attend to widen our desire to reconquer a true democracy. Gerard Schivardi, from the permanent bureau, replied in the affirmative.


Tuesday, February 28, 2006

To the members of the permanent bureau

Christian Fleury Mayor of Bonnetable

I attended the conference in Berlin on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26February 2006, along with numerous European delegates with a French group from throughout the country to testify to our European comrades on the evolution (rather the disappearance) of our Communes via the forced regroupment into intercommunality or links to urban communities.

This conference brought together the representatives of 15 countries who contributed moving and disquieting testimonies on the economic situation and especially on the human drama the workers are living through in our respective countries. We are in the process of destruction of several national jewels that belong to the people of each of those countries and that constitute their wealth and their survival. Through the European directives of Maastricht since 1993, all the profitable sectors of our economy have been privatized and all our national governments have been impoverished.

The Serbian representative explained the intention to create permanent ethnic conflicts and the scission in the Balkans between those of the east and those of the west. Another poignant testimony came from the brother of a Romanian trade unionist arbitrary jailed by Brussels invectives for a period of over 15 years. The Hungarian representative described the bankrupt situation of the railroads in his country and the Danish representative who confirmed their wish to place themselves outside the European Union. Finally the Spanish delegation announced the government's intent to privatize the entire hospital system, presently avoided.

The Italian representative brought us proof of the liaison between Prodi and Berlusconi in order to hasten the creation of 20 little Italies. Numerous French and German delegates testified to the degradation of the social gains and the disastrous future of our health and retirement services.

A former Portuguese deputy explained how after having participated in the creation of the Social Constitution of 1974 it was rejected as unsavory by Suarez, because she refused to join the capitalist European Union.

Cholewka, a dissident of the British Labour Party, testified that the suppression of communes that functioned adequately has resulted in the disappearance of the mayor's police power since it was transferred to the districts (something that stopped by police refusal).

The testimony of the Turkish representative indicated that the government of his country is prepared its entrance into the European Union by selling large farms, the telephones and metallurgy to international financial groups (pension funds) in view to their future restructuring with European funds. The representative also noted the financing a docile Turkish trade union submissive to the established order to create a false democracy.

My dear comrades, these excerpts show the disaster engendered by the European Union that we must reject.

I hope that at the next National Convention that we can invite European representatives from all countries who can be there so that we can widen our hopes of reconquering a true democracy.

This reconquest can only be obtained by the break with the European Union and the financial and capitalist Maastricht.

Comrades rejoin the European liaison movement between all the workers and let us build a true social Europe.

Fraternally yours, C. Fleury Mayor of Bonnetable


Gerard Schivardi, mayor of Mailhac and member of the permanent bureau of the National Committee for the Reconquest of Democracy, replies:

-Dear colleague and friend, I am informed of your proposal to invite the delegates from the different European countries who were present at the Berlin Conference last February 25 and 26 to our convention on May 27 and 28 in Paris, where you presented the bases for the European Liaison Committee of workers.

Your proposal is very interesting as it allows us to link together the interests of the people against the Europe of capitalists as it is at present.

I hope the greatest number of delegates from the European countries can participate in the National Convention in Paris.

We must create committees everywhere in order to help the citizens of Europe to get rid of their governments and demand that our politicians insist on the immediate removal of the Treaty of Maastricht and other treaties following it.

Cordially yours till we meet in Paris on May 27,

Gerard Schivardi


The consequence of the end to the textile quota system

Let us remember that the multifiber agreement in the framework of the WTO came to an end at the beginning of 2005. At the same time the textile multinationals, in agreement with the governments concerned, launched an offensive without precedent against labor conditions including the trade union rights gained by the workers in that sector.

A Turkish delegation was present at the European Conference held in Berlin on February 25 and 26, 2006.

Following the conference we received the following message from Cetin Yelken, president of the Barkinoy (Istanbul) section to the TEKSIF trade union.

Turkey is one of the countries where textile and clothing are important industries from the point of view of employment and exports.

Over three million workers in Turkey are employed in these industries and only 792,000 are registered and covered by the social security system. The rest are informal workers. Of those three million workers only 60,000 are organized into trade unions.

The production of the textile and clothing sector is as basic for human beings as is food, and that is why this will always be an industry powering the economy.

However, while the workers in this sector are not organized, the multinational companies and the ging-name brands over-exploit the labor force.

There has been a lot of political activity organized by the employers in this sector in Turkey over the last weeks that resulted in a special meeting with the primer minister and other ministers last week. Many claims were raised. According to them, there is a decrease in exports in this sector of two million dollars and a decrease in employment up to 200,000 jobs in the last ten months.

In the name of the problems created following the meeting with the prime minister, they have discarded insurance and taxes on wages as well as the regionalization of the minimum wage.

The howls of the textile employers are hypocritical. They complain that they are no longer competitive in certain regions, however the fact is they themselves have become the dealers instead of producers in certain regions.

They talk about introducing different minimum wages in the different regions of the country, but there are different wage scales through the country and even wages lower than the minimum national wage in the informal sector that they now want to formalize.

In the year following the end of the quota system the workers in that sector have experienced very negative consequences. Besides the approximately 250,000 workers that have lost their jobs, the minimum wage is hardly ever applied in the majority of cases. The gains of the workers have been destroyed. The workers are obliged to work extra hours without pay in many shops.

According to us there will not be a solution for the workers while labor is not as well organized as capital is.

There will not be a solution while there are no decent wages or working conditions, and while there is no possibility of becoming unionized with the third world or in China.

There will not be a solution for us while the Swiss and Chinese textile workers do not have the same rights and wages.

In this spirit and the sentiment of solidarity we salute this important meeting and communicate our decision to cooperate and fight together with our comrades in all countries.


"Democracy and public services, a united Republic, NO to the European Union."

"A list to present the aspirations that have united the whole country"

As we near April 9, when the Italian general elections will be held, we are called everywhere to gather as one person to get rid of Berlusconi.

A few days ago, all the leaders of the French PS came to Rome to offer their support for Romano Prodi, presented as the hope for the partisans of a Social Europe.

Is there an Italian worker who does not aspire to a formidable gathering of all the forces to get rid of Berlusconi to put an end to the policy of destruction throughout the country? We all aspire to this.

But this is our question: is it possible to place the lot of the workers and the country in the hands of a Prodi, who was originally at the head of the European Commission, of the 'reform' on pensions and who proposed to lower the 'cost of labor' by five points, increasing flexibility, and continuing privatizations and the 'reform' of the pension system? It is not just an Italian problem.

Aren't we seeing the design on the drawing board of the "new trade unionism" advocated by the ETUC throughout Europe, when Guglielmo Epifani, secretary of the CGIL, proposes as he did at the CGIL congress (see below), that all the confederations sign a pact for "3,000 days with Prodi"?

It is in order to warn you that I send this correspondence to the "Committee for the NO to the European Union, and NO to decentralization" which was presented at the Berlin Conference and that presents an independent slate for the municipal elections in Turin, next May 28. This slate includes 500 signatures from the citizens of Turin with the objective of grouping together on an independent base and to present at these elections the aspirations that have united the country these last few years.


The secretary of the CGIL offers a "pact of 3,000 days with Prodi"

The Corriere della Sera (March 2, 2006) salutes the agreement passed by the CGIL congress (Rimini, March 4) between Guglielmo Epifani, present secretary general of the principal Italian trade union, and Romani Prodi, the candidate of the entire left at the next elections. An Italian correspondent writes us on this subject.

The Corriere della Sera writes in exultant terms on Guglielmo Epifani's proposed long range pact with Romano Prodi." In effect, the secretary of the CGIL has proposed "a 3,000 day pact."

A ten-year pact! Who can understand this? Was the CGIL built by the workers for this?

The newspaper quotes Fassino and D'Alerna (principal leaders of the Socialist Democracy, ex-reconverted Italian PC. Ed. Note) so that the direction of the CGIL will be in complete harmony" with the program of the Unione.

The Corriere also quotes Fausto Bertinotti -- leader of Rifondazione along with former members of the Italian PC and the "critical left" [equivalent to the Krivine-Besancenot in France Ed. Note] -- who see in Epifani's speeches a difference with the past. Alongside with the Unione (the CGIL) has revised its program resulting in an agreement with the center left. To quip, the link with Epifani could be an excellent program base for a president of the council. Is that the role of a trade unionist? There are many in the very heart of the CGIL who seek to oppose this, seeing nothing positive in it.

The Corriere underlines: "The concept expressed to the most important Italian trade union is: "I really need you, a strong CGIL, capable of being the indispensable instrument for the country's government." How is it possible that Prodi can give himself the luxury before a trade union assembly (which has been horrified by the Biagi law on flexibilization of labor) to praise flexibility " if it harmonizes with stability" -- as Prodi did on March 4?

Flexibility of labor, that is to say the destruction of all the workers' rights, of stability, that is to say the application of the Maastricht-Amsterdam stability pact of the destruction of public services, health, retirement and education. This is the same program that we know as the "reduction in the cost of labor", a program that Prodi, during his five years as the head of the European Union, imposed throughout Europe. It's a program he wants to introduce throughout Italy if he is elected. A program that he and all parties of the Unione, with all its components are wanting to implement and which they are now trying to enslave the CGIL with.

On March 3, 2006 the Corriere dedicated an entire article to Prodi's declaration "which has re-launched the strong ideas of his program," in other words " a reduction in the cost of labor."

It is up to the five million trade unionists, the 12,000 trade unions on all levels and the 1,200 delegates to congress and other voices raised in the course of the preparation for the congress, especially in all the trade unions, to say that the trade union must remain a trade union and reject this course.

To be continued.


A delegate was present at the Berlin Conference. He brought to our attention documents concerning the safeguarding of a shipyard and against privatization of the NZF factory.

Address of the Labor Collective of the Azov shipyard to the deputies the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine

This year the Azov shipyard would be 120 years old. Over these years, the factory gained the approval not only of the USSR but following the post-soviet period, it performed numerous tasks involved in the construction of ships and machines for them.

After the departure of the director in 2000, the factory started to go backwards in 2002 when it was leased and then plunged down. Incompetent management, the total absence of renewal of operating funds, low wages that forced the departure of qualified workers, the drastic reduction in the construction of machinery and an orientation to a single buyer led to the loss of the principal partners in the sector.

Despite this during 2005, the factory benefited and it was only until the end of the year that repairs stopped and it fell into a mountain of debts. Our leaser no longer needs the factory as he only needs the quays and he does not care about the fate of 1,500 people who dedicated their lives to the factory. The collective asks you to intervene against this arbitrary decision -- and have the factory change ownership and management in order to regain its prestige and defend the law for the benefit and justice of the workers.

We ask you to attend a meeting with the labor collective with management.


The labor collective of the NZF factory requests the president to support the ban on privatizing the factory.

The labor collective of the Nikipolsk NZF factory corp. (Dnepopetrosvk region) addressed Viktor Iouchtchenko, president of the Ukraine, asking him to sign the law that places NZF on the list of companies not threatened with privatization.

"The ban on privatizing the NZF at the present time is in the interest of the state, the factory and its workers," was underlined in the appeal according to Interfaks-Ukraine.

The authors of this document noted that on the signing of the law in question "hangs the maintenance of work stability in the company and the future of a stable development of national metallurgy in the years to come."

"The Supreme parliament has set apart the factory from the labor collective and the Ukrainian economy, has threatened a second sale of the factory's shares which actions, independent of the company that caused it to be auctioned, would have undoubtedly been destructive."

They are convinced that the sale of the company at auction would have led to a monopoly of the sector of fusion of the metalworks in the Ukraine by the "Privat" group and therefore the loss of control by the state on the self-sufficiency of the country in this domain."

For the labor collective the results of the auction would mean the loss of present social guarantees and the absence of institutions and mechanisms that ensure these guarantees on the part of the new owner.


Statement by Students and Unionists attending the European Conference Task Force on Higher Education (Berlin, February 25-26, 2006)

We -- the undersigned students, teachers, and trade unionists of higher education, from universities and institutes of research who attended the European Workers Conference in Berlin on February 25-26, 2006 -- have witnessed in our countries in recent years, in the name of LMD degrees and the "Bologna Process," the privatization and destruction of public universities and higher research, as well as the dismantling of national degrees, which have been closely bound to the collective guarantees and rights gained by the working class in many European countries.

As emphasized by a Swiss trade union official, this "Bologna (LMD) Process" is not a new re-organization of higher education; rather it is an "enterprise of destruction of European universities," of diplomas and of public research free from market pressures. This destructive enterprise is carried out in the name of meeting the requirements of "flexi-curity" and the lowering of labor costs imposed by the European Union.

We -- who refuse to stand by and watch these gains of civilization be destroyed, who refuse to permit the financial asphyxiation of universities and the dismantling of the public employment status of workers and teachers -- hereby decide to form a:

"European Liaison Committee

- For the defense and the reconquest of the University and of public research, to save them from destruction-destruction;

- For the defense and the reconquest of diplomas linked to the collective guarantees gained by workers;

We therefore call for the abrogation of LMD, and for breaking with the "Bologna Process" and with all the reports, memorandums and recommendations of the European Union."

Our European Liaison Committee is not in competition with anyone. In an initial discussion bulletin, it will publish contributions we have received from France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Italy, in order to allow the free flow of information and exchange toward better understanding and coordinated resistance.

Our committee envisages the possibility of organizing a first European Encounter before the end of the academic year.

-- Berlin, February 25, 2006

Belgium : Jacqueline MURET, education trade unionist. France : Jean-Pierre BARROIS, Senior Lecturer; Marie-Edmonde BRUNET, teacher trade unionist; Claude CHARMONT, teacher trade unionist; Laurence FAVIER, academic researcher, trade unionist ; Fabienne FOURCADE, education trade unionist; Dominique GROS, retired professor; Jean-Louis HOBEL, trade unionist higher education; Jacques PARIS, education trade unionist; Norbert TRICHARD, teacher trade unionist; Florian GIBERT, student. Germany: Heinrich BECKER, teacher; Michael FUTTERER, teacher ; Julian GÜRSTER, student; Brigitte KLEIN, teacher. Italy: Guido MONTANARI, professor. Portugal: Carmelinda Pereira, teacher. Romania: Paul Gabriel VASILE, education sector worker. Spain: Pepi AFONSO, teacher trade unionist; Javier ALCOLEA, teacher. Switzerland : Michel GINDRAT, education trade unioni


"We will not permit the dismantling of the nation!"

Presidential elections will be held in Mexico in July 2006.

On April 24, 2005 over one million workers and peasants from throughout the country met in the Zócalo (Mexico City's main square). Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the city's mayor, called the mass meeting after the Fox government threatened to disqualify him from running in these elections.

Trade union and political leaders and activists took the initiative last June to address an Open Letter to López Obrador. The first 2,000 signatories of this Open Letter have been invited to constitute Committees for the Defense of the Sovereignty and Unity of the Nation and will hold a national meeting on April 1, 2006.

Letter to the First Signatories of the Open Letter to López Obrador

"The nation is threatened. Last year, on April 24, 1.2 million people met in the Zócalo to reject the attempt by the Fox government and the U.S. Embassy to deny the Mexican people the right to choose a candidate for the presidency. In this manner, the working people of Mexico rejected the destructive policies applied by the PAN government (National Action Party) for the benefit of imperialist interests. One banner in the Zocalo expressed the sentiment of an entire people: "We will not permit the dismantling of the nation!"

Eleven years of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and 25 years of privatizations, deregulation and the surrender of the nation's interests to foreign capital have led Mexico to be abyss. The disastrous consequences are particularly evident in the mass emigration northward of millions of people in search of employment to feed their families. The consequences are expressed in the increase in drug trafficking, with its daily dose of violence and murders -- and the sinking of the majority of the people into extreme poverty.

Five years of the Fox government have taken this policy of dismantling the nation of its material base to yet another level. During these last days of his government, Fox is trying -- with the support of the congresspeople from the PRI (Partido de la Revolución Institutional) and from his own party -- to destroy the solidary pension system of the ISSSTE [social security workers], to launch a counter-reform of the federal labor law, to widen the policy of privatization of the land, and to hand over PEMEX, the national oil industry, to multinationals via the NAFTA-Plus Agreement.

Throughout these last years, the Mexican people -- the youth, the workers, the shantytown dwellers, the peasants, the mothers -- have mobilized to defend the rights and conquests won in the framework of the nation in hundreds of demonstrations, mass rallies, and strikes. The banner of their struggle has been raised in all these protest actions: "Our Nation Is Not For Sale, We Must Defend Our Nation!" [La Patria No Se Vende, La Patria Se Defiende!]

Next July 2, millions of Mexicans will go out and vote for López Obrador. They will reaffirm their will to defend the Mexican nation and all the workers' gains.

In so doing, they will reject the "Wall of Shame" the Bush government seeks to build along the border with Mexico -- a wall, whether "virtual" or physical -- that signifies the criminalization of Mexican and Central American migrants who are forced to leave their homelands in search of employment because of the consequences of the policies of privatizations and "free trade." This Wall, in turn, is aimed at increasing the pressure on the governments of the region to advance the policies the that are destroying our nations.

The people, through their vote, will be demanding:

- Defense of agriculture and the countryside
- A stop to all the privatization measure of the PRI and PAN governments
- NO to decentralization

They will be demanding th use of the economic resources of the nation for the development of industry, agriculture and employment.

This is the mandate that millions will give López Obrador on July 2.

We call on the first 2,000 signatories of the Open Letter to Lopez Obrador to conduct a wide campaign to collect signatures and constitute Committees to Defend the Mandate for the Defense of the Sovereignty and Unity of the Nation. These committees will hold a Second National Meeting on April 1 in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas.


Excerpts from the Open Letter to López Obrador, published in July 2005 in El Trabajo (see ILC International Newsletter No. 147).

"Mr. Andrés Manuel López Obrador:

To respond to the aspirations of the Mexican people:

Are you ready to have the country's resources used solely for the purpose of developing industry and agriculture and promoting the national enterprises and services -- contrary to what is presently done, when these resources are handed over to imperialist banks through the payment of an unjust and unpayable debt, a debt the people never contracted and from which they have never benefited?

Are you ready to cancel this unjust public debt? Are you ready to break with this policy of debt repayment which the international financial institutions have imposed on us?

Are you ready to abrogate NAFTA -- a treaty aimed at destroying Mexico's agriculture and its national economy? Are you ready to cancel the "negotiations" with the Alliance for Progress and Security in North America (or NAFTA-Plus, as it is called)? This is a plan the Fox government signed with the presidents of the United States and Canada and which, if implemented, would mean the total transfer of our energy resources and sovereign territory to the U.S. military and politicians?

Are you ready to end the "structural counter-reforms" and to abrogate laws such as the Salinas law aimed at privatizating the communal agricultural holdings (ejidos), or the 1992 law that opens the way to privatizing to the multinationals to take over our electricity?

A candidate committed to the defense of the sovereignty and unity of the nation would have to confront these problems.

López Obrador: We will support all mobilizations and actions (such as the march of one million in the Zocalo, or, as some trade union leaders propose, a general strike) aimed at responding to the needs of the people and the nation.

López Obrador: We are ready to support a candidate who gives a clear response to these heartfelt demands.

- Out with Fox! - Out with all the country-selling and corrupt politicians and parties! - Stop all the structural "counter-reforms"! - The nation is not for sale, the nation must be defended! - That is what millions upon millions of Mexicans have said over these last few years."


Privatizations and food crises

Thirteen years after the genocide: Where is the "laboratory for the resolution of conflicts"?

Excerpt from the Tribune Ouvriere newsletter of the activists linked to the International Liaison Committee in Burundi

Six years ago, under the aegis of then South African President Nelson Mandela, the Arusha agreements were signed with the aim of putting an end to the terrible genocide which in 1993, had cost the lives of over 300,000 people in Rwanda and Burundi. At the time Burundi was considered a "laboratory for the resolution of conflicts."

At a time when rumors of a coup d'etat are circulating again in Bujumbura, the capital, we publish excerpts from the Tribune Ouvriere edited in Burundi by activists of the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples.


"The electoral process in Burundi issued from the Arusha Agreement [which last August led to the election of the current president, Pierre Nkurunziza. Ed. Note] was welcomed by the international community (meaning the great powers, the World Bank, the IMF the European Union and the UN) as being the model for Africa and all dominated countries.

Where is Burundi at present?

Among the political measures taken by the government, we cite the "placed in provisional liberty" of 1,453 'political' prisoners, that is to say people who participated in the anti-Tutsis genocide and the massacres of the civilian population that caused over 300,000 deaths since 1993 and those who executed the bloody putsch of October 21, 1993, that carried president Ndadaye."

Today officially the population of 13 out of 17 provinces has been struck by a famine: 70% to 90% of the poulation of the provinces in Ruyigi, Muyinga and Cankuzo are directly hit by the famine. The population of the province of Kirundo in the north is fleeing toward Rwanda, while those in Ruyigi and Cankuzo are exiled in Tanzania in search of food.

2.2 million people out of 7 million Burundians need food urgently.

The drought, the destruction of the ecological framework, industrial pollution throughout the planet, the lay off of agricultural workers in Burundi at the dictates of the IMF and the World Bank isn't this the policy of international finance capital?

The privatization-liquidation of Onapha (pharmaceutical) (see below) in a context where over 80% of the population gave up health care, the march towards the liquidation of hospitals and public services, the lay offs, the overturn of the labor code and the statute of civil servants. Isn't this the policy of international financial capital?

Wherever one turns all sectors of the population are affected. We are no longer in a phase of threats: the macabre process of the disappearance of populations hits us: the witnesses are the dead brought on by the famine throughout the country.

It is urgent. Peace, democracy are the reconstruction of the country requires the immediate end to privatizations, renationalization without indemnity nor the possibility of re-purchasing the companies and privatized services, nationalization of the natural resources of the country, the defense of employment, rehabilitation of public sectors, annulment of the foreign debt, a break with capital and its deathly plans.

Isn't this what is needed for the Burundians to survive?


The process of privatizations increases

In less than five months of the new government, the process of privatization-liquidation of public companies has taken a vertiginous path. In fact, the ONAPHA (national pharmaceutical office) was been liquidated to be the benefit of a South African company. The only large textile factory in Burundi, the textile complex of Burundi (COTEBUT) is at the point of closure.

The cases of ONAPHA and COTEBU are advanced signs of a vast program of privatization-liquidation of public companies in the name of 'good government.'

It is an increase in the application of the policy dictated by imperialism. We could also say that the government wants to put the finishing touches on what previous governments had not been able to do. What is worse is the silence, nay complicity of the trade union leaders.

We cite here the case of the COSYBU trade union, who said nothing in regard to the technical unemployment and lay off of workers at COTEBU and ONAPHA.

This situation affects youth, the workers and their organizations, for the organization in defense of public services and employment for the annulment of the foreign debt, the renationalization of companies and public services privatized and the nationalization of the national resources.


Against the "Country-Dismantling Constituent Assembly," What Is the Way Forward?

At the very same moment the new government of Evo Morales issued its call for a "Constituent Assembly and Referendum on Regional Autonomies," the Bolivian Trade Union Federation (COB) announced it will be holding an expanded meeting of its National Executive Committee.

On Sunday, March 5, 2006 the government of Evo Morales and the rightwing opposition parties concluded an agreement on the call for elections to the "Constituent Assembly" that will be held July 2. On that same day a referendum also will be held in the nine departments of the country regarding the "autonomy" of these departments.

The members elected to the so-called Constituent Assembly will have a binding mandate on this point.

This agreement, which has taken the shape of laws adopted by the Congress, has met with widespread opposition from the vast majority of labor and popular organizations in Bolivia.

On March 7, the COB announced it would file an appeal with the Constitutional Tribunal against the convening of this Constituent Assembly and Referendum. The general secretary of the COB, Jaime Solares, announced that the COB would ask all the trade unions and all the federal governmental bodies to support this complaint. Solares also indicated that if this legal recourse was unsuccessful, he was ready to organize direct action against the government's decision.

Solares stated: "Mr. Morales, who says he is the president of all Bolivians, is forcing us to take radical measures. He has deceived us. He has begun to betray the October Agenda." (In October 2003 there was a popular uprising in support of the call for the nationalization of the hydrocarbons without indemnization and for a Constituent Assembly with full powers.)

Solares added: "For us, a Constituent Assembly must have all the powers, including the power to challenge the mandate of the president. Anything else is a betrayal of the country."

A consensus to "regionalize" the country

The agreement signed by the Morales government and the rightwing parties makes it clear that the Constituent Assembly, contrary to the demand of October 2003, will not have full powers. According to the COB's departmental federation in Oruro (bastion of the Mineworkers' federation, where the country's main tin mines are located), this agreement will only benefit the interests of the Santa Cruz oligarchy.

It is necessary to point out that this ruling-class oligarchy wants complete autonomy in relation to the Bolivian federal government so that it can be exempt from any laws that would nationalize the hydrocarbons and so that it can negotiate directly with the multinational corporations. Santa Cruz and Tarija are the two departments that contain 87% of the country's oil and gas resources.

According to the law that was adopted, the Constituent Assembly will institute the "regionalization" of the country with the creation of autonomous governments in each department. At the same time, this law removes all powers from the Constituent Assembly, as it maintains the full functioning of the current Congress. According to Miguel Zubieta, leader of the COB's Oruro Department, the referendums that will take place concurrently with the election for the Constituent Assembly are aimed at preserving control by the multinational companies of Bolivia's natural resources.

The way forward: the call for a National Popular Assembly

The COB decided to hold an expanded leadership meeting at the end of March to analyze the law that was adopted and to take the necessary measures against it.

The COB is faced with a major responsibility. The way forward for the workers and people of Bolivia depends to a large extent on the decision that the trade union federation is called to take to ensure the implementation of the mandate given to the COB at the First Workers' and Popular Summit held on December 10-11, 2005 in El Alto -- with the support of the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples (ILC). At that Summit, it was decided to "build Local and Regional Popular Assemblies in March 2006 -- with representatives of these assemblies delegated to participate in a National Popular Assembly, which will meet on April 10, 2006 in El Alto."

The challenge for the workers' movement and its organizations -- faced with the offensive of the Morales government to divide the country in the name of renegoting the contracts with oil companies (in opposition to the call for nationalization) -- is to assemble all its forces in a National Popular Assembly that will bring gather together all the oppressed sectors of the population, particularly the peasants, to confront this offensive aimed at dismantling the Bolivian nation and its sovereignty.

Yes, the COB must take the lead in calling for a National Popular Assembly!

-- Correspondent in La Paz
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