PGA Bulletin

Peoples' Global Action against “Free” Trade and the WTO

Issue number 2, June 1998

Part III

previous part (Global Days of Action against “Free” Trade and the WTO – May 1998)

Other News and Actions




Latin America:

North America:

News on Institutions and Corporations:



15 Ogoni released by the Nigerian High Court

On 22nd May, fifteen of the twenty Ogoni political detainees who have been held in the same cell since May 1994 were granted bail by the Nigerian High Court. A ruling on bail applications by another five prisoners is expected on June 15th. They face the same politically motivated charge for which MOSOP President Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders were assassinated in November 1995.

Since MOSOP began its campaign against Shell in 1993, Ogoni people have suffered shootings, rapes, arbitrary arrests, mass looting, extortion, torture and imprisonment in degrading conditions. The Ogoni 20 have been in prison because they opposed Shell's dirty operations in Nigeria and the devastation of Ogoni land through 30 years of oil drilling. Shell has its own private police force operating in the region, an elite detachment of the Nigerian police, paid by and taking orders from the company. More information: Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People,


Coordinator from Oilwatch Africa detained without charges in Nigeria

Isaac Osuoka, coordinator from Oilwatch Africa, has been detained without charges in Lagos since May 26th for the possession of 'subversive' materials. These were anti-Abache posters and copies of the Niger Delta Alert, a magazine issued by Environmental Rights Action (ERA) on the oil industry in the Delta. Abache is dead, but Isaac is still in prison. When he was brought in front of the Lagos. Commissioner of Police, the Commissioner asked why Isaac had not been shot in the first place. ERA has now found a second lawyer willing to work on the case. (The first lawyer was arrested when he went to visit Isaac and is still detained.) The lawyer will try to make sure that there will be an official charge against Isaac so that at least he can be defended. Meanwhile, ERA is asking for international action in the form of letters and faxes to the police officers involved. You can contact the A SEED office ( to receive a form letter and the addresses it should be sent to. You can also contact the same address to receive a copy of the report made by Human Right Watch Africa and of a report made for Amnesty International.


News on the Chad/Cameroon oil and Pipeline Project

On June 3, Chadian Parliamentary Deputy Ngarlegy Yorongar was detained by the Chadian Government. In an interview published in the Chadian newspaper l'Observateur in July of 1997, Mr. Yorongar had accused the Assembly president of accepting millions of French francs to help finance his election campaign from the French oil company Elf. Elf has a large operation in Chad and is supposed to soon begin construction on a large oil pipeline through Chad and Cameroon. Along with Yorongar, two journalists from l'Observateur were also arrested. The trial is supposed to take place imminently. Mr. Yorongar has been the victim of politically motivated arrests on several previous occasions due to his criticism of the oil/pipeline project.

The arrest and anticipated trial of Mr. Yorongar and the journalists is part of a continuing pattern of human rights violations in Chad in connection with suppression of opposition to the oil pipeline project. As part of this campaign of suppression, in October 1997 at least 80 people, principally civilians, were killed when the Government broke a peace agreement. The latest arrests are a clear indication that it is not now possible to openly discuss the oil and Pipeline Project within Chad. According to Amnesty International, there are frequent reports in Chad of killings, arbitrary arrests, torture and other human rights abuses.

Please send faxes, telegrams, airmail letters, etc. expressing your concerns and appeals to: President Idries DEBY. BP 74 N'DJAMENA. Republique du Tchad. Fax: 235 51 45 01

Since the World Bank is helping to finance the Chad/Cameroon oil pipeline project, please also consider writing, faxing, express mailing, etc. messages to: James Wolfensohn. President – The World Bank. 1818 H Street N.W. Washington, D.C. 20433. Faxes: 202 522 0355 or 202 522 1677

Ask Mr. Wolfensohn to send a note of concern to the Chadian government. Ask him to suspend all ongoing plans and preparations for the Chad/Cameroon oil and pipeline Project

More information: Fax (202) 234-6049;


Human Rights Abuses in South Africa

Excerpts from the March 1998 publication by Human Rights Watch concerning undocumented migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees in South Africa: “Although South Africa, since the first democratic elections in 1994, has made remarkable progress towards establishing a free and democratic society based on respect for the human rights of its own citizens, foreigners have largely failed to benefit from these developments and remain subject to serious abuse. Anti-foreigner feelings have also increased alarmingly ... Undocumented migrants have been subject to abuse by officials from the Department of Home Affairs, the police, and the army, as well as by the general public ... This report seeks to document the experiences of foreigners in South Africa, including undocumented migrants, legal residents, asylum seekers, and refugees, in order to add their voices to the debate on migration in South Africa. Human suffering should not be ignored in a country that only recently emerged from a system that degraded basic human rights and human dignity.”

The full 236-page book is available in the Human Rights Watch web site ( Additional background and links are available in documents from Southern African Migration Project (


Call for Mine-Free Africa. African conference on landmines in Burkina Faso

African Campaigns to Ban Landmines called on the Organization for African Unity (OAU) to sign and ratify the international landmine ban treaty before the first anniversary of the treaty signing ceremony 3 December 1998. Africa is the most heavily mined continent in the world.

The call came at the close of a workshop hosted by The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and the Inter-African Union for Human Rights (UIDH) on the impact of landmines in Africa, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso from June 3–5, coinciding with the 34th Summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

For further information contact: Halidou Ouedragou (+226) 31 61 45 or Liz Bernstein, International Campaign to Ban Landmines, PO Box 2189, Maputo, Mozambique. Tel: +258 1 49 39 81/2; Fax: +258 1 49 39 80, email:


News from Indonesia

The dictator Suharto has been forced to resign as a result of people power. This was a momentous victory for the Indonesian people who put their lives on the line and mobilized in their millions. However, the new government is not much better than Suharto's dictatorship. Habibie, one of Suharto's closest business cronies, was chosen as Suharto's formal successor through the thoroughly undemocratic process that has enabled Suharto to stay in power for three decades. Hence, the pro-democracy movement inside Indonesia will continue, and it will have to be given international support.

Contact: Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor, P.O. Box 458, Broadway 2007, Australia. Tel: 61-02-96901032 Fax: 61-02-6901381, email:, Web Page:


Massive repression of thousands protesting against Maheshwar Dam in the Narmada River

Over 3000 dams – around 30 of them major – are planned for construction on the Narmada River. The Maheshwar Dam project is one of these. The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), Movement to Save the Narmada, is at the forefront of opposition to the construction of the dams. It estimates that the Narmada Valley Project will displace over one million people. Reports indicate that the project disproportionately affects members of the Scheduled Tribe communities or adivasis (indigenous tribal peoples).

The Maheshwar Dam alone will flood 5,000 hectares of agricultural land and force the relocation of 2,200 families. Sixty-one villages will be affected by the consequences of the dam. As a result of protests, the government agreed in January to postpone construction, pending investigation into environmental and social consequences, costs of the project and alternatives. In violation of this agreement, construction began again in April, prompting renewed protests.

In May, 1998, over 150 women and 50 men were reportedly arrested when police broke up their peaceful protest at the site of the Maheshwar Dam. In similar incidents during April, 1,500 people were arrested; several received serious injuries as a result of police beatings.

On June 10, ten policemen reportedly attacked a protester – Jagannath Chowdhury – and tore at his clothes until he was naked. He was not provided with clothing until he reached the temporary jail in a school where he was held until the evening with around 490 others who were also arrested. Some of those arrested were beaten and had to be hospitalised. Several women who were arrested have alleged that they were threatened that the next time they protested their saris would be torn and they would be stripped naked in a similar manner to Jagannath Chowdhury. The National Commission for Women investigated the April protests and found “extensive” use of violence against peaceful protesters.

Since 1992, Amnesty International has expressed concern on numerous occasions to the authorities concerning human rights violations inflicted on Narmada Valley activists – especially women – by police, including arbitrary arrests, torture and beatings.

Please send protest letters. Contact and information: Narmada Bachao Andolan, fax 91 22 537 6710, e-mail or


“Beautification” project to destroy the livelihoods of 20,000 in India

The Nandanavanam Project of the Government of Andhra Pradesh (India), officially aimed at the beautification of River Musi in Hyderabad, will destroy the houses and livelihoods of nearly 20,000 people who have lived for 40–50 years in slums in the area affected by the project.

The project, which includes building commercial complexes, parking places and lawns, will sweep away the results of many years of struggle of the slum dwellers to achieve stable homestead. Many of them have spent the earnings of a lifetime to build houses for themselves. The housing that the government promises to provide outside the city is no compensation to their eviction.

Until now the affected people are kept in uncertainty about who is financing the project. Official sources have said that either the World Bank or the Government of the Netherlands are the sponsoring organizations. The victims have not even been informed by whose aid they should lose their homes.

The affected people and their organization, Nandanavanam Basti Samrakshna Samiti (NBSS), along with the National Alliance for People's Movements, Human Rights organizations, and others, have been registering their strong protest. People have gone to the Court, taken out rallies and sat in hunger strike. They are absolutely determined to stop the project if it means displacing them.

The affected people themselves have come up with alternatives. They ask for protest letters to be sent to the authorities of Andhra Pradesh.

For more information, a sample letter and addresses to send them, please contact: and


Filipino farmers' land stolen by Supreme Court

On November 5 1997, the MAPALAD farmers in the South of Philippines won back 100 hectares of the 140 stolen by Norberto Quisumbing Sr. Management Development Corporation (NQSrMDC) after a 28-day hunger strike. During the strike, many of them collapsed due to extreme hunger and exhaustion. Through the courage of the protesters, agrarian reform regained prominence and was again back into the national consciousness.

The NQSrMDC filed a petition with the Supreme Court to nullify the president's decision. Now, somehow, a case with sufficient evidence proving the validity of the farmers' claim over the land was decided in favour of NQSrMDC on grounds of a technicality. The Supreme Court of the Philippines ruled that the awarding of the 100 hectares to the farmers was null and void because of the Department of Agrarian Reform's failure to submit their first Motion for Reconsideration with the Office of the President within the 15-day allocated period for appeal. Furthermore, the Supreme Court ruled that the farmers are “fake and not real parties to the case”, as if they were not the ones deprived of land, livelihood and life itself. Until now, the farmers and their lawyers have yet to receive the official copy of the decision from the Supreme Court.

Please flood the Supreme Court with letters, faxes and telegrams. For more information, sample letters and addresses please contact ANGOC, People's Campaign for Agrarian Reform at


Damnation begins for San Roque damsite residents, Philippines.

Since February 15, 1998, families residing in the area affected by the San Roque Multi-Purpose Dam Project (SRMDP) have been asked to demolish their homes and relocate elsewhere. This dam will displace at least 925 families. Aside from the areas which will be directly submerged, many other communities in higher-lying areas are also bound to be displaced because of the accumulation of silt resulting from the damming of the Agno River.

During a recent fact-finding mission it was learned that the displaced families voluntarily relocated their homes in the hope that the National Power Corporation (NPC) would give them an adequate relocation site. However, the NPC was only able to provide a few temporary shelters in a temporary site, which are being rented for P 500–P 2 000 a month and are located in an area with inadequate water sup and no electricity at all. Worse, the promised alternative livelihood programs are nowhere to be seen. The displaced families are left to fend for themselves. There are no jobs available and their farmlands have already been taken over by NPC.

During interviews, the affected families revealed that the NPC used a variety of tactics to convince the people to relocate. One tactic used was deception through promises of compensation. Another was a census survey way back in 1995. In succeeding meetings, people were made to sign attendance sheets which were later on attached to statements supporting the project.

The people of San Roque are opposed to the dam project because it is destroying their homes and their livelihood. They need international support (protest letters, solidarity statements) in order to stop the dam. Please write to the Cordillera Peoples Alliance to find out how you can help. Address: 139 M. Roxas St., Trancoville, Baguio City 2600. Philippines. Telefax: 443-71-59 or 445-36-16. EMail:


Korean workers struggle against IMF and unemployment

On May 27 some 120,000 Korean workers downed tools and took to the streets to protest about mass redundancies and to demand reform. The government responded by issuing a statement that the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) strike was illegal and vowed to crackdown on its leaders. Employers have also threatened to sue unions for losses and damages caused by the “illegal strike”. Finally an agreement was reached and the strike was called off. According to the KCTU an average of more than 200 companies have shut down each day since the beginning of the crisis, with an average of 4,000 workers losing their jobs each day.

More information: Policy & Information Center for International Solidarity, Fax : ++82 2 839 4359, E-mail :


Campaign against the IMF and MAI in South Korea

The “Korean Action Network for International Solidarity against global domination of capital” is composed of six progressive groups. It launched a campaign against the IMF and the MAI, given the little awareness among Korean people about the MAI. It will hold the “People's International Conference in Seoul” in order to lay the foundation for an international solidarity struggle against the MAI and the IMF. The conference is also convened by trade unions, grassroots movements such as KCTU, Solidarity for democracy & progress, etc.

Contact: Policy and Information Center for Int'l Solidarity. E-mail;, fax: +82-2-8394359


Environmental catastrophe on Lake Issyk-Kul (Kyrgyzstan)

A catastrophe occurred on Lake Issyk-Kul (Kyrgyzstan, Middle Asia) on May 20, 1998. 1762 kg of NaCN were thrown into the lake because of a lorry's crash. The 20-ton container with the chemical was transported to the gold-mining factory of Kyrgyz–Canadian joint venture Cumtor Operating Company. The container was broken in the mountain river (14 km from the lake Issyk-Kul). The poisoning substance immediately came to the lake.

Contact: Eco-Accord, pr.Mira, 36, 129010 Moscow, Russia. Ph: 7 095 280 80 67, fax: 7 095 200 42 50, e-mail:


Repression and destructive decisions at EBRD's Annual Meeting in Kiev

The Annual General Meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) took place from 9 to 12 May in Kiev, Ukraine. The Business Forum was attended by three thousand investors, business consultants, business women and men, government representatives, three hundred journalists and (due to lack of space) 14 representatives from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

The repression against activist groups opposed to capitalist development like “Rainbow Keepers” and “Tigra Nigra” started even before the EBRD meeting. One person was illegally interrogated three times by the Ukrainian Security Service (USS, former Ukrainian KGB). He was threatened in various ways, including threats to kill or rape his close friends and relatives. On the first day of the Annual Meeting 5 activists of “Rainbow Keepers”, “Ecozakhyst”, “Tigra Nigra”, and the Social-Ecological Union were arrested for holding a banner in front of the building where the meeting was taking place and sentenced in an urgent procedure to 5 days of prison. All of them went on hunger strike. On the last day of the meeting, two activists were arrested while painting banners in a park and kept in jail for several days.

The EBRD was founded by the governments of the G7 and EU Member States in 1991, to promote the transition of the command economies of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to market economies. The EBRD plays a major role in the promotion and realization of some mega-projects with both ecologically and socially far-reaching effects. Some examples of EBRD loans:

  1. The EBRD nuclear case Chernobyl 4 and K2/R4. In spite of the fact that the G7 channelled US$300 million through the EBRD for the so-called “Shelter Implementation Plan”, the Chernobyl site remain highly risky. For the most part, the work on the Shelter thus far can be characterized by gross overcharges, only partially completed, unnecessary, or simply fictitious steps. It is estimated that only a few million dollars have been spent usefully. While gambling that there will be no further catastrophe at Chernobyl, the EBRD is considering new funding for the completion of the two partially-built reactors Khmelnitsky 2 and Rivne 4 (K2/R4). The proposed K2/R4 projects fall far short of safety, economic and public participation standards and present serious environmental and financial risks. Even the EBRD's international Panel of Experts has shown K2/R4 to be an unnecessary investment and conclude that Ukraine can meet its power needs through safer, more cost-effective alternatives.
  2. Sakhalin II. In June 1997, the EBRD voted to approve a loan of US$116 million for the Sakhalin II off-shore oil and gas project. The marine environment near Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East is one of high marine biodiversity, with endangered whale and dolphin species. Although the project threatens waste discharges and oil spills into the ocean, it has been met Russian law as well as the international EIA standards.
  3. Azeri “Early Oil” Project. The Early Oil project will combine old and new oil production facilities including underwater pipeline in the Caspian Sea, two lengthy land-based pipeline routes through Azerbaijan, Georgia, Chechnya and Russia, and tanker terminals in the Black Sea. The project would lead to potential oil spill and production discharges into the seas which are closed bodies of water with unique aquatic ecosystems. The pipeline routes will cross valuable forests and wetlands. The proposed project will negatively impact marine and terrestrial ecosystems with drilling discharges, potential pipeline leaks and shipping spills. Despite the fact that the project would have far reaching destructive impacts, the EBRD will soon take decision on financing the project on the basis of a highly inadequate Environmental Impact Assessment and no public consultation.
  4. Kubaka mine project. The EBRD-supported Kubaka mine in the Russian Far East is the first major US–Russian gold-mining joint venture in the region. Project sponsors promised it would utilise a model modern western technology to protect the environment, and that it would be a “zero discharge” mine. In late 1997, however, environmental NGOs learned that releases of liquid contaminants were emanating from the mine site, including leaks and settling at the mine's toxic tailings pond dam. In the worst-case scenario, there would be a catastrophic dam collapse of the kind that occurred in the Omai gold tailings dam disaster in Guyana.
  5. M1 and M15 motorways in Hungary. In 1993, the EBRD agreed to contribute to the construction of the M1 and M15 motorways in Hungary. The motorway was completed in 1996. Since then, environmental and social problems linked with the project have been growing continuously, although economic and financial issues are the largest source of controversy. A comparison with other toll motorways shows that it is one of the most expensive motorways in Europe. As a result of extremely high tolls, about 70% of Hungarian cars, 50% of foreign cars and 90% of trucks use the old, parallel-running No. 10 road. While it is clear that these benefits have not been realized, the Bank is insistent on recouping its loan from Hungarian taxpayers.

For more information on any of these projects and how to get involved in the campaigns against them, contact Rainbow Keepers Ukraine (Tel. 0038044 2634954, Fax 0038044 5506068, email or For the Earth, CEE Bankwatch Network (P.O. Box 975, Sofia 1000, Bulgaria, Tel/fax +359-2-658216, e-mail


Protest March against the European Central Bank in Frankfurt

In July, the European Central Bank will open up in Frankfurt. It will be the only central institution of the intended European Central Power based in Germoney, and one of the cornerstones of the Europe of Maastricht. A Europe that demands cuts in social expenditure, pension cuts, a two-class medical care system, demolition of public education systems, impoverishment. A project that leads to the global destruction of natural resources, to an enclosed “Fortress Europe” where racial segregation is nurtured, to the strengthening of military forces and to domestic pressure by means of expulsion of the poor and homeless from city centres, unified police strategies, etc.

We will protest against this project at the demonstration against the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germoney, which will take place on JUNE 27th 1998, 12 a.m. at Opernplatz, Subway (U-Bahn) Stop: Alte Oper (U6 and U7)

Contact: Alliance against the ECB, c/o Infoladen Exzess. Leipziger Str. 91, D-60487 Frankfurt/Main, Germany. Tel/Fax: +49-69-774670 (best times for calls: Sunday, 11:00–20:00 h CET, Monday 18:00–20:00 h CET). E-Mail:


Week of actions against neoliberalism in Madrid

From the 25th to the 30th of May, a very diverse coalition of organizations and collectives (including squatters, church groups, organizations of the unemployed, etc) took the streets of Madrid to protest against neoliberal policies. The actions, that took place under the slogan “Let's Break the Silence!”, ranged from the occupation of an empty hotel in the best-known street of the city to a “Shopping for free” action in a huge supermarket, from debates about topics such as “Housing”, “Unemployment”, “Children” etc to the occupation of an unemployment office, from a protest against the human rights violations in prisons to a demonstration supporting the strike of the Underground workers. Contact: Movement against the Europe of Maastricht and Economic Globalization,


Direct Action Stops the Gene Crops in the UK – 7 Fields Destroyed in One Night

On the night of the 3rd of June, in an escalation of popular action against 'frankenstein food', at least seven separate crops of genetically engineered rapeseed were destroyed across the UK. These actions bring the total number of known genetic field 'decontaminations' in the UK to 19.

The deliberate release sites, part of at least 300 nationwide, were being field-tested by the following transnational companies: Agrevo, Monsanto, Pioneer Genetique and Plant Genetics Systems. The crops which together cover approximately 10,000 sq metres were cut down using common gardening tools and bare hands. It is likely that hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage will have been sustained. This is a significant blow to companies already feeling the effects of public distrust and crop failures. It may be that the commercialization process for genetically engineered oilseed rape has been slowed down because necessary data is now destroyed.

In a telephone statement to GEN, a 'cropper' calling herself 'Miss Jean' explained: “Nobody has asked for these Frankenstein foods, most people actively dislike them and yet we are not even being consulted on what goes in our mouths. Four government conservation agencies have called for these fields to be halted yet Jeff Rooker [UK food minister] recently stated that he was not in the driving seat on this issue. Well, if the government can't act to protect our interests then we've got to. This morning, due to responsible and peaceful direct actions, we are seven fields closer to a safer world.”

For further information – call the Genetic Engineering Network on +44 181 374 9516 or page +44 7666 750473.


Citizens actions against nuclear hypocrisy – abolition days 1998

It's early summer 1998, and a new arms race is kicking off between India and Pakistan.: The countries that already have nukes are very quick to condemn them. But this nightmare might not be happening if the five 'official' nuclear powers – US, UK, France, China and Russia – had done the right thing long ago, and negotiated a global ban on nuclear weapons. It is with these fact in mind that activists all over the world will be taking action this summer. For the second year in the row, a campaign called Abolition Days is calling people everywhere to join them in conducting 'Citizen's Inspections' of nuclear 'sites of crime'. An International Peace Action Camp will take place in July in Brussels. On October 1st there will be people's Inspections and non-violent direct actions worldwide. There will be a walk for Nuclear Disarmament from NATO/Brussels to Faslane/ Scotland (Trident nuclear submarine base) from July 12 to August 9, and from August 9–25 a Trident Ploughshares 2000 Disarmament Camp will take place in Faslane.

More information: For Mother Earth, Gewad 15, 9000 Gent, Belgium tel. +32-9-2334924/ 2338439 fax +32-9-2337302


Antinuclear activist training camp in Russia

The Antinuclear Campaign of the Socio-Ecological Union, Kola Regional Environmental Center “Gaya” and ECODEFENSE! are organizing an antinuclear activist training camp for everyone who wants to contribute to the prevention of dangerous and expensive nuclear plans. Non-violent direct actions, trainings and seminars will be organized in the camp. The antinuclear camp is part of a global campaign, “Stop MOX!” organized by environmental organizations in Russia to prevent the implementation of dangerous nuclear technologies. It's also aimed to stimulate changes in the orientation of Russia's energy industry: from nuclear power and fossil fuel to alternative sources of energy and energy-efficiency program. More information: Ecodefense: <>


Activists Disarm B-52 bomber at Andrews Air Force Base

Five peace activists enacted the biblical prophecy of Isaiah to beat swords into plowshares at a Pentagon air show outside Washington, D.C. on May 17. They hammered and poured blood on a B-52 bomber on public display. They acted in memory of the action of the Catonsville Nine, who thirty years ago today burned draft files to awaken all to the immorality of the Vietnam War.

Contact: Max Obuszewski [1-410] 323-7200 or 243-7695 or; Jonah House [1-410] 233-6238


Mobilizations against the high speed train in Gasteiz

The Basque government is about to start the construction of the high speed train in the Basque country, one of the most aggressive transport infrastructure projects that are needed in order to push forward the European Single Market and economic globalization. There have been protest actions (including a demonstration on the 13th of June) and a mobile exhibition is being prepared. More information: Assembly against the high speed train (TAV). c/ Florida 37, 2 A. 01005 Gasteiz. Spain.

Latin America

News from Chiapas

The Mexican president, Ernesto Zedillo, seems to be determined to exterminate the indigenous peoples of Chiapas. In the last months there have been continuous criminal offensives of the Mexican army against the “support basis” of the Zapatistas (i.e. the indigenous communities that support the Zapatista upraising), culminating in the bombings and executions in San Juan de la Libertad. Another worrying sign of the proximity of an open war is the decision of the Mexican government to forbid the entry to the international observers of the “peace belts”, who guaranteed a minimum of tranquillity to some indigenous communities: a new, ridiculous law makes the entry of observers in Chiapas almost impossible, and more than 100 observers have been expelled from the country.

This article describes only the most scandalous and recent chapters of this dirty war of the state against the indigenous peoples, but in Chiapas there are many more aggressions that the ones presented here. We also inform about a recent massacre that took place outside Chiapas, in the state of Guerrero. A wave of indignation is raising in Mexico due to these actions of the army. The famous writer Carlos Fuentes (one of the most prestigious authors in Spanish language and former Mexican ambassador in Paris) has expressed this indignation in an article for the magazine Reforma, in which he compares the extermination policies of the Mexican government with that of Hitler:

“To believe that a few shots in the mountains can suddenly congregate one thousand soldiers to kill people without a roof over their heads, without land and without shoes, is as bad a joke as blaming the victims as “outlaws”. The same accusation that was made about Zapata himself in his days (read the press of the year 1919). (...) Chiapas is internally besieged by the strength and contradictions of power. The state governor does not want witnesses to be there. Nor does he federal government, apparently. But Chiapas without witnesses means the death of Chiapas, extermination in impunity. Hitler did not tolerate witnesses in Auschwitz, nor did Stalin in the Gulag, nor Pinochet in Chile. (...) The emissaries of death should not deceive themselves. In Mexico, the cadavers revive and reclaim justice.”

The next indigenous community in the extermination list of the army is San Andrés Sakamch'en, where the first round of the peace negotiations between the government and the zapatistas took place. The agreement that resulted from this negotiation was betrayed by Ernesto Zedillo although they were signed by the representatives of all the political parties present in the parliament, including his own. The incursions of the army in San Andrés Sakamch'en have increased dramatically in the last days, in order to prepare the attack. Only a quick and effective intervention from the international civil society (occupying the Mexican embassies, writing protest letters, organizing demonstrations, etc) can stop this criminal assault of the army, which is aimed at forcing the EZLN to defend the Zapatista communities, giving the army a pretext to launch a generalised military attack against all the Zapatistas. If you undertake any protest action, please report it to the Zapatista Front for National Liberation at

At the end of this article you will find two calls for solidarity, one to help the support basis and the refugees to combat the hunger and illness that is attacking them, and the second one in relation with the Zapatista political prisoners.

15–16 June: Incursions of the federal army in the communities of San Pedro, Las Delicias, San Cayetano, Alvaro Obregon, El Brillante y San Andres La Laguna. The incursions, which in the last four communities were accompanied by paramilitars, were aimed at provoking confrontations with the Zapatista support basis, and at arresting people displaced by the dirty war. Fortunately there were no victims.

10 June: Bombings and executions in San Juan de la Libertad: Since 3:00 am more than a thousand soldiers, policemen and paramilitars, supported by light artillery, war helicopters and tanks entered the communities of Chavajeval, Union Pogreso and El Bosque, on the pretext of arresting 15 people. They entered the villages gassing and shooting at people, putting the houses in fire and bombing them from the helicopters. The inhabitants escaped under a storm of bullets, in which at least six persons were injured and arrested, and later they were found dead. Ten people disappeared.

The army claims that they were defending themselves from the attack of the peasants, but there are no traces of bullets in their vehicles. The inhabitants covered the flight of children and women towards the nearby mountains, but in radio communications the militars themselves speak about one single arm, one single shooter. Human rights organizations, several journalists and the direct witnesses describe the intervention of the army as executions and massacre.

A communiqué of the community Union Progreso from the 12th of June says that the soldiers “continue persecuting us in a daily basis, they approach our community guided by the paramilitars, they even shoot their arms very close to us, they have locked us in, we cannot go out to work, there are sick people and we cannot get them out to be cured.”

7 June: Executions in Guerrero: a group of members of ERPI was executed by the federal army in the early morning while they were sleeping in a school in the community of El Charco. The soldiers riddled the thin walls of the school with the bullets of strong machine guns, killing immediately most of the group. Witnesses say that those who survived were executed after surrendering. Observers from the Centro Pro de Derechos Humanos saw several people (including a minor) killed by shots directly on the skin.

These executions were presented by the army as an armed confrontation. However, there are no traces of confrontation in the village, and the bullet holes in the walls of the school were rapidly repaired. One woman, Erika Zamora, was tortured to make her declare against social and peasant leaders.

7 June: the governmental aggressions against the catholic church provoked Bishop Samuel Ruiz's resignation as president of the CONAI (National Commission for Intermediation) and its subsequent dissolution. These are some excerpts of the Bishop's resignation letter: “At the present time, in spite of the affirmations said to the contrary, it is evident that the Government has given up the path of dialogue ... It is also been verified, that besides the interruption of the dialogue, there is not only a deterioration of the situation in Chiapas and the whole country, but also a constant and growing governmental aggression against the Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas ... This aggression against the Diocese ... has become a systematic persecution against it and has taken shape in numerous actions: expulsion of 7 priests with false accusations; denial of right to stay for foreign pastors; the imprisonment of four priests falsely accused and with blatant violation to their human rights; the closure of some 40 temples (some of them occupied by the Mexican army); ... generation of a lynching climate; desecration of the Holy Eucharist in various temples, done by public police ... I will continue ... the endeavour to build the true Peace from Chiapas, knowing that this Peace cannot be mistaken with the peace that results from selective repression of the communities, nor with the confrontations that others provoke in them, nor can it be reached provoking a disarticulation which breaks the unity of legitimate differences.”

3 June: Illegal raid in the autonomous municipality Nicolás Ruiz. About 3000 armed men (soldiers, policemen and paramilitars) entered the municipality in the early morning, using teargas and shooting at people. More than 140 people were arrested, an undetermined number of houses were ransacked, a great number of men, women and children were injured, and it is not yet known if there were deaths. This operation was a response from the army to the declaration made by the General Assembly of the municipality on the 12th of April, which declared it as an “autonomous municipality”.

2 June: Expulsion of all the families from the Community Nabil. 3 lorries with policemen and paramilitars entered in Nabil in the morning and expelled the population. All the families had to flee with their children to the mountains without food or clothes.

25 May: Attack to Tenejapa. About 80 lorries and vans from the army and the police entered since 2:00 am. The soldiers and policemen frightened the population and destroyed and stole their few belongings.

Regular assaults to the autonomous municipality of Tierra y Libertad (Land and Freedom): Since the 1st of May, when the municipality was attacked and dismantled by the army and the police, many people have moved out of their communities, due to the constant minor aggressions and the generalised fear that the army will launch a new major offensive in any moment. Since that date there have been constant incursions of convoys of the army and the police, including arrests, torture and shooting.

Hunger enclosure for the 19 000 war refugees in Chiapas – call for solidarity. Lack of food is used as a weapon by the government, which stops 19 000 refugees to go back home and till their land. Just to supply with maize the 10.500 refugees of Chenalhó, 20 tonnes of grain are needed every week. Soap is urgently needed to avoid epidemics. The rain season is approaching, and the precarious shacks where the refugees live will be flooded; hence any illness can become an epidemic. Latrines and water canalization have to be built in all the refugee camps to avoid cholera.

This urgent call is made in the dates when maize has to be sown. If this is not done now, in September there will be no maize for thousands of indigenous peoples in resistance. Enlace Civil buys the maize to communities that sympathise with the resistance and hence fosters local trade and exchange.

The account for the refugees is: Bank: BANCOMER. PLAZA 437, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas. Mexico. Account number: 1000853-3. Account owner: Mercedes Osuna. Please fax the recipe of the bank transfer, writing clearly “Para los refugiados de Chiapas” on it, to the number +52-967-82104

Solidarity call from the political prisoners in Chiapas: the families of the 83 political prisoners from Chiapas live in absolute scarcity, suffering hunger, in indigenous communities that are surrounded by militars and paramilitars, without possibilities to till their land, with children and no source of income. The political prisoners can do nothing to help them. They need actions and political support for their liberation, and material support for their families.

The account for donations is the same as for the refugees; please fax the recipe of the bank transfer, writing clearly “Para los presos” on it, to the number +52-967-82104

More information about the situation in Chiapas at the Zapatista Front (Tel & fax (52-5) 761 4236. E-mail: Web: and Enlace Civil (Tel & fax: (52) 967-82104. E-mail: Web:


News from Colombia

In Colombia the paramilitars, with the complicity of the army, continue killing the civil population in absolute impunity. This article describes the latest massacres, which as always have taken place in areas with strong influence of transnational capital (usually mining, cattle-rearing, oil and banana corporations) or drug cartels. Responsible for this situation are the national army (that organized and trained the paramilitars and cover their crimes), the last governments (that not only permitted the action of the paramilitars, but even legalised them) and the most important media (that have been exalting the supposed “political philosophy of the paramilitars”). But, although the paramilitars and the army are the main culprits of this bloodbath, the indigenous and black communities are also affected by the operations of the guerilla in some occasions, as can be seen in a recent communiqué of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, partially reproduced below. But this is not the general situation. The killings are usually announced and executed by the paramilitars in cooperation with the army, there are lists of villages to be attacked (only in the department of Bolivar the list includes Simití, San Pablo, Santa Rosa, Cantaclaro and Yondó). The figures of displaced people are alarming, and the deaths on the hands of paramilitars, inconceivable. Civil society, the majority of which is disorganized and demobilized, and the most prominent civil activists, are the main victims of the situation.

25 people assassinated and incinerated by the paramilitars in Barrancabermeja

The 25 people who were kidnapped on the 16th of May in the city of Barrancabermeja by the paramilitars of “Autodefensas de Santander y Cesar” (Ausuac) were assassinated and incinerated, according to information from the paramilitars. The objective of this action was to kill the head of the Army of National Liberation (ELN), Nicolás Rodriguez “Gabino”. Ausuac has recently declared that their next targets are the president of the oil workers' union USO, Hernando Hernandez, and the president of the Regional Committee of Human Rights, Osyris Bayter.

Some weeks before this massacre, a group of 200 paramilitars had entered in Puerto Elvira and killed 17 people in total impunity. This massacre had been previously announced to the government by human rights organizations, but no measures were undertaken to avoid it.

400 peasants occupy governmental offices demanding measures against the paramilitars

About 400 peasants of the Putumayo region occupied on the 28th of May the promises of the Ombudsman in Bogota demanding from the government concrete solutions to the difficult situation in their region, caused by the paramilitars. The spokesperson declared that since February, when the mayor of Puerto Asis denounced the presence of paramilitars in Putumayo, there have been constant assassinations of leaders, with more than 35 victims in less than 15 days. There is fear that massacres will soon follow, like in other regions of the country. “On the 6th of January a group of paramilitars came in a plane of the army to Puerto Leguísamo ... This group has killed peasants and indigenous peoples, has forced the displacement of people from the area and has announced massive killings in Puñuña Negro, Puerto Vega, Puerto Ospina and Puerto Asis”

Massacre of indigenous and black communities in the combats between guerilla and paramilitars

Excerpts of the press communiqué circulated on the 9th of June by the Executive Committee of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC): “We denounce that since the 28th of May there have been combats between the paramilitars and the guerilla in the municipality of Murindó, in the department of Antioquía. That the development of these combats has seriously affected the civil population, composed mainly of indigenous and black communities. That since last week we have been informed that five hundred people have been displaced out of their communities. There are reports that relate that more than 20 people have been killed and 18 have disappeared ... We hence demand to the actors of this conflict that they respect the life and human rights of the civil population. That they respect the autonomy of indigenous peoples from the armed conflict that is being fought in this country.”

The peasants of the area reported that since the 26th of May, some units of the army together with the paramilitars entered the community and arrested several people. The killings started on the 27th. The army kept the area isolated and during three days it denied permission to entry to an emergency commission formed among others by representatives of the Red Cross.

More information about Colombia: Agencia de Noticias Nueva Colombia, e-mail:


Dam to flood indigenous communities, towns and nature reserves in Brazil

Porto Primavera Dam, a project nearly 20 years in construction, which will have serious social and environmental impacts and will end up costing more than $9 billion ($7 billion over budget) is nearly ready to be commissioned, without necessary social and environmental mitigation measures in place.

Despite a court order prohibiting the action, and despite the fact that a comprehensive plan to adequately compensate farmers, ceramic workers, fishermen, and others affected by the dam has not been completed, the Electric Company of Sao Paulo (Cesp) insists it will begin filling the dam's reservoir on June 12. 6,200 people would have to be relocated, including the last of the Ofaie-Xavante indigenous people, and thousands more will lose their livelihood.

The Porto Primavera reservoir would flood an area of 2,250 sq. km., making it one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, the equivalent of 300,000 football fields, larger than Itaipu reservoir. Despite this fact, it will generate a maximum of only 1,815 MW of electricity (one-eighth of the generating capacity of Itaipu). The cost per megawatt/hour of electricity from Porto Primavera will be $150, making it among the most costly in the world (CESP charges $40 per megawatt for energy it sells).

Flooded would be valuable wetlands ecosystems, affecting the survival of endangered species including marsh deer, maned wolf, giant anteater, broad-snouted caiman, giant river otter, and black and spotted jaguars. This week, the government of Sao Paulo is trying to push through a measure in the state legislature which would effectively “extinguish” two protected areas to be flooded by the dam. Cesp has not cleared trees and vegetation in the area to be flooded, worsening the reservoir's potential effects on fish stocks, and creating conditions for proliferation of disease-bearing mosquitoes and other insects.

The principal contractor is Camargo Corrêa, one of Brazil's largest and most politically powerful construction companies, responsible for construction of Serra da Mesa, Tucurui, and Itaipu dams, which have each had serious social and environmental impacts, and have come in far over budget. Reportedly, the transnationals Techint Montreal, Potain, GEC Alsthom, and Asea Brown Boveri have also participated in the construction of the dam.


The Movement of Dam-Affected People of Brazil asks that you send letters protesting the closing of the Porto Primavera floodgates without adequate mitigation measures in place. You can remind the officials that, in other dams with serious social problems, such as Yacyreta, several hundred kilometres downstream (Paraguay/Argentina), the problems just got worse after the reservoir was partially filled.

Tell them that the fact that, after 20 years, the fact that a comprehensive mitigation plan is still not in place reflects the low priority Brazil places on solving the social and environmental problems large dams create, and that the Porto Primavera project must not be permitted to proceed until a plan satisfactory to the dam-affected populations is designed and implemented.


Governador Mário Covas (Governor of São Paulo state). Palácio dos Bandeirantes, Av. Morumbi 4500, Cep 05698-900 – São Paulo – SP, Brazil. Tel: (+55.11) 845-3000/3344 – Fax: (+55.11) 845-3301/ 3700

Presidente Eduardo de Souza Martins (President of Brazil's Environment Institute). IBAMA, Brasília. Tel: (+55.61) 316-1292 / Fax: (+55.61) 322-1058

Dir. General José Mário Miranda Abdo (Director-General of Brazil's Electrical Energy Agency). ANEEL – Agência Nacional de Energia Elétrica, Brasília. Fax: (+55.61) 312-5711

Please send a copy to MAB – Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (Dam-Affected Movement). Rua Sete de Abril, 264 – sala 722, 01014-000 – São Paulo – SP. Telefax: (+55.11) 256-0839/Tel: (+55.11) 3159-4265/Email:


Mapuche people confront the biggest corporation of Chile

Endesa, the biggest private concern in Chile, wants to construct the megadam Ralco in the High Biobío. Ralco would be a 155 meter-high dam with a 3,400 hectare reservoir, which would displace more than 600 people and flood over 70 km of the river valley, inundating the richly diverse forest and its wildlife. Projections of Chile's future energy requirements indicate that the energy it would produce will not be needed.

But Endesa has a problem: several Mapuche Pehuenche families who live in the area to be flooded have decided not to exchange their land for the land offered by the electrical company, and have let the authorities know that they will not negotiate on their decision. According to the Indigenous Peoples Act, Endesa needs the authorization of all the indigenous families living in the area to be able to construct the dam, since it is an Indigenous Protection Area.

To overcome the Mapuches' position, Endesa will try to impose the thesis that the Electricity Act is more important than the Indigenous Peoples Act. To achieve this, it is accelerating the works with the aim of presenting the dam as an accomplished fact: in July it will invest the first 10% of the 500 US$ that the dam will cost. If Endesa manages to advance the works substantially in the next months, it is very probable that it will end up imposing its will, since it has full support from the government (including the president Eduardo Frei, a hydraulic engineer). The government's alliance with Endesa led to the destitution of the director of the National Environmental Commission due to a negative report of the commission about the dam.

The National Corporation for Indigenous Development (Conadi) is currently investigating the land transfers that according to Endesa have already been made by 83 indigenous families. The director of Conadi said that they consider the land transfers null and void because Endesa deceived families to get them to sign. Endesa says the land transfer signing process was transparent and informed.

In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor from Boston the Mapuche Ms. Quintreman, who lives in the area, says that her family has lived there for 500 years. “This is my land. They can offer me all the cows and other goodies they want for it. The only way I'll leave here is dead.”

ENDESA is planning to construct six hydroelectric dams on the Biobío, which is used by over one million people for drinking, fisheries, etc. The first of these, Pangue, is already 70% completed.


Aymara community confronts Canadian TNC in Bolivia

A Bolivian Aymara community called Pahaza has denounced that the Canadian mining transnational TAKLA STAR is carrying out prospections at the community without accomplishing the environmental requirements established by the Law of the Environment. Pahaza is placed very close to the Chilean border, in a very beautiful and vulnerable landscape crossed by the Mauri River (which is the source of food and water for many communities) and full of archaeological remains.

The Aymaras that live in Pahaza own a communal land bought with lot of suffering and sacrifices by their ancestors, who had to pay to the Spanish crown for their own land. This collective title is recognised by the law, but the Canadian multinational is trying to bypass it throughout individual working contracts in order to divide the community. The exploration fails to fulfil several Bolivian laws like the Environmental Law, the Forestry Law and the consultation requirements of the Mining Law.

In a letter to the authorities, the Aymaras say: “The people of Pahaza want to live in a clean environment without pollution. Our children have the right of drinking clean water, we do not want dead rivers ... The original people of the Ayllu Pahaza are in an emergency state and regional mobilization.” They ask people to send protest letters and do actions against the TNC.

More information and sample letters: fax (591 2) 332919, email: or


Fourth Assembly of the Aymara people

The Parliament of the Aymara People – Defence of the Water, the Ecology and the Environment in the Andean Basin – will meet from the 5th to the 7th of July in the meeting point of Peru, Chile and Bolivia. The Aymara Parliament was created in June 1996 in order to defend the land, water and biological diversity in the Andean region, which are seriously threatened by “gigantic projects of water transfer from the Andean range to the Pacific coast that originate from the voracity of development and modernity executed by the states of Chile, Peru and Bolivia, that assault directly the millenary habitat of the Aymara people. We also pursue the union of our cultural identity, it is our duty to recuperate and preserve it.”

The Aymara territory is currently divided between Bolivia, the North of Chile, the South of Peru and the North of Argentina. Since the end of last century, these states (particularly Bolivia, Chile and Peru) have provoked the desertification and ecocide of the Andean basin, as a consequence of the transfer of superficial and underground water from the Aymara territory.

More information: Casilla de correo 8958 La Paz – Bolivia. Tel. 591 02 814679. E-mail


Ashaninka Indigenous communities oppose the entry of Elf in their territories

“Our lives and our forests have more value than the oil”. That was the message of the indigenous representatives of the Indigenous Unification Council of the Central Jungle of Peru (CUNISECP) when they marched to the parliament in October 1996. Today they repeat the same message, confronted with the intentions the French oil multinational ELF to exploit oil in their territories. The representatives of the indigenous communities in the river Ene met in the community of Pichikia from the 17 to the 19 of April, to participate in the workshop “Impact of oil extraction in our communities”, organized by the CUNISECP. This organization has started a programme to monitor the impact of the seismic exploration undertaken by ELF, with the aim of defending the rights of indigenous communities of the area.

This and other news can be found in the issue number 31 of AVIRO BOLETIN DE LA AMAZONIA ASHANINKA, contact:


Kolla people and Yaguarete jungle threatened by Argentinean businessman

Agostino Roca is one of the most powerful businessmen in Argentina. Today he holds in his hands the future of the Yaguarete jungle. The heavy machinery and explosions of his enterprise (Technit) are about to start destroying the jungle, opening the way for a gas pipe. The 350 Kolla families that live in the area are opposed to the project. The jungle keeps the last population of Yaguaretes with possibilities to survive and 60% of the birdlife of the whole country. It is also the area with the least explored biological diversity in the country, and it keeps species that have not been described. The Franciscan Centre in Buenos Aires asks people all over the world to send protest letters to Mr. Rocca at a, fax (++54-1) 310-1000. Contact of the Franciscan Centre:, Tel-Fax ++ 54-1-918-8651


Labour rights and NAFTA side agreements violated at Han Young factory in Mexico

Excerpts from statement by the strike committee of the Han Young workers: “The state government does not hesitate to violate our right to strike, using all the repressive apparatus of the police – who are supposed to protect Mexican citizens and not the foreign corporation owners as they have in this case. The state government's protectionism of foreign investors in the maquiladora industry [assembly factories for export] is obvious. In Baja California, labor justice is a dead letter. We call for national and international solidarity to unite in support of our just struggle for the defense of labor rights for maquiladora workers.”

The events at Tijuana's Han Young factory offer the clearest example yet that maintaining Mexicans as cheap labour for transnational companies is at the heart of the NAFTA reality. US allies of the Han Young workers have called for activists to respond to the emergency in Tijuana by engaging in non-violent civil disobedience. Contact: Campaign for Labor Rights <>


Quinoa Patent Dropped – Andean Farmers Defeat US University

Andean farmers have forced Colorado State University (CSU) to surrender US patent on 'Apelawa' quinoa. The anti-patent campaign that began 14 months ago ended on May 1st when one of the quinoa “inventors” admitted that the patent had been abandoned. Bolivia's National Association of Quinoa Producers (Asociación Nacional de Productores de Quinoa – ANAPQUI) calls the defeat of Colorado State University's quinoa patent“... a great victory for the Andes and a wonderful day for Andean farmers.”

In Spanish: ANAPQUI, Casilla 12649, La Paz, BOLIVIA. Tel: 591-2-353-872. Fax: 591-2-372-935. E-mail: or

In English: RAFI-USA, P.O. Box 640, Pittsboro, NC 27312, USA. Ph. (919) 542-1396. Fax: (919) 542-0069. E-mail:


North America

Kingston Community General Strike and Day of Action against Neoliberal Policies

Community co-chairperson Natalie Mehra says, “This Day of Action has made Kingston proud. Our community agencies have stood up for what they believe and our religious leaders have spoken out for the Day of Action. Having 45 buses and 15 maxi-vans from all parts of Ontario shows the breadth of support we had today. Ten thousand citizens marching for the Day of Action shows that this government should learn to respect the citizens they govern. The people of Kingston voted with their feet today”

Contact: Peter J. Boyle <>


Report on poison exports from the US

The US-based Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education (FASE) released May 26 its report “Exporting Risk: Pesticide Exports from US Ports 1995–1996.” The report finds that more than 21 million pounds of pesticides banned or otherwise forbidden in the US were shipped from US ports in 1995 and 1996, many of which were destined for developing countries. Over the same period, more than 28 million pounds of pesticides deemed “extremely hazardous” by World Health Organization standards were exported from the US. US policy allows the export of banned pesticides as well as pesticides “never registered,” meaning pesticides that have not been evaluated by the EPA.

The FASE report noted there are indications that trade agreements create pressure for developing countries to use inexpensive and/or hazardous pesticides.

News on institutions and corporations

USA Senate to approve trade bill aimed at recolonizing Africa

Some members of the US Congress have devised a “NAFTA for Africa” that is bad news for African and US workers, environment and democracy. The Crane Sub-Saharan Africa Bill imposes severe restrictions on African economies, turning control of these nations over to international bodies (including the WTO) and large multinational corporations.

Here we reproduce some excerpts of a column by Bob Herbert published by the New York Times (!!!) on Sunday June 7, 1998. Criticism for the Crane Bill seems to have reached even the most established mass media – good news for a change!

“It has a nice name, the 'African Growth and Opportunity Act', and a clever slogan, 'trade not aid', but a bill now before Congress is in fact an enormous benefits package for thriving multinational corporations and a threat to the very sovereignty of the sub-Saharan nations that sponsors of the bill say they want to help.”

The bill narrowly passed the House in March, where it was introduced and pushed hard by Representative Philip Crane, an Illinois Republican who has referred to some developing African countries and their leaders as 'retards.' (A spokeswoman told me on Friday that the Congressman had not intended to offend anyone.) The bill has the strong backing of the Clinton Administration, as well as such giant corporations as Texaco, Coca Cola and Kmart.

The aim of the bill is to liberalize trade between the United States and Africa. It would, among other things, allow duty-free and quota-free exports to the US for 10 years, support the creation of a US–Sub-Sahara free trade agreement and encourage the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to set up funds to stimulate private development in Africa.

But the bill also makes some demands. In essence, participating countries would have to adhere to the harsh and often inhumane requirements of the International Monetary Fund. Thus, these countries would have to undergo a radical economic restructuring that would include cuts in corporate taxes, reductions in government spending and privatization of some of their most valuable assets – mines, forests, harbours, oil wells and the like – with the multinationals and other wealthy foreign investors ready to snap them up at fire-sale prices.

“What does this mean to the people on the ground in these countries?” asked Randall Robinson, the president of TransAfrica and an opponent of the Crane–Lugar bill. He noted that IMF structural adjustment programs are already under way in some African countries and studies of those programs have shown disturbing effects. Ghana is one example. It is cited as an IMF success story. And yet, as Mr. Robinson pointed out, public spending on education, health and agriculture – in accordance with IMF dictates to limit spending – has been falling. Health care for the poor has taken a particularly heavy hit, even though children are dying in staggering numbers.

The trade bill also requires participating countries to join the World Trade Organization, even though many African countries have chosen not to join. The Organization for Economic Development, a supporter of the WTO, has reported that sub-Saharan Africa would be a loser under WTO rules because countries that import more food than they export would inevitably be hurt by requirements to cut domestic agriculture subsidies.

This is not a small matter. Four in 10 Africans suffer in some degree from hunger or malnutrition. Agricultural subsidies can be a matter of life and death in such populations. But the trade bill fashioned in Washington says simply: you will join the WTO.

President Nelson Mandela of South Africa has characterized the bill as “not acceptable.” But most sub-Saharan leaders, faced with desperately poor populations and desperately high unemployment, have signed on. They appear to hope that in some way, somehow, a trade agreement with the big boys, with the United States and its great corporations, will alleviate their economic suffering.

“It's a situation ripe for wholesale exploitation.”

More information: PA Consumer Action Network, e-mail, Fax (1 610) 775-2953


Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) on six-month hold

Ministers from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) agreed to a six-month hold on MAI negotiations. Ministers are to use this time as a “period of assessment and further consultation between the negotiating parties and with interested parties of their societies,” according to a communiqué from OECD ministerial meeting in Paris last April.

Several governments are now pushing for shifting the MAI negotiating to the WTO, with the aim of extending the agreement to the 132 WTO members rather than the small group of 29 OECD countries. Japan also called for investment to be included in possible Millennium Round talks at the WTO.


European Parliament Sells Out – life patents directive adopted

On May 12, the European Parliament adopted legislation that allows the patenting of animals, plants and humans, their genes and parts. Despite claims by proponents that the Directive has been the subject of thorough debate, on the day of the vote many parliamentarians still failed to see that the Directive allows for the patenting of living organisms (!). This ignorance/confusion is largely due to the political sales language that has been built up around the patenting of life. The (ir)rationale of economic growth, global competitiveness, and employment became the dominant terms of reference in the position of the larger political parties within the parliament.

THE CAMPAIGN CONTINUES – groups from different EU member states are investigating ways of challenging the transposition of the Directive to national law. Contact Steph at fax 31-20-655 0166 or if you want to join in campaigns against the patenting of life in your country.


New Transatlantic Economic Partnership Launched

At the EU–US Summit on the 18th May, Tony Blair (UK), Bill Clinton (US) and Jacques Santer (EU) approved the New Transatlantic Economic Partnership. Although the precise contents of this initiative are unclear, Clinton stated at a press conference that it aims at dismantling “trade barriers, both bilateral and multilateral trade barriers, in areas such as manufacturing, services and agriculture, about a dozen in all, while maintaining the highest standards of labour and environment.”

With the New Transatlantic Economic Partnership, the EU and US try to push through an only slightly reworked version of Sir Leon Brittan's much contested New Transatlantic Marketplace, which was clearly rejected by France, which demanded that agriculture and audiovisual arts should be left out of any trade liberalization talks between the EU and the US. Contact: Corporate Europe Observatory <>


Brief news on Monsanto

(1) Monsanto, the US agrochemical company, has tried to force genetically engineered crops into Europe and has encountered huge public resistance. It is now calling upon African leaders to sign a statement to go in the European press to tell Europeans not to be selfish by slowing acceptance of genetically engineered crops because “it is a luxury our hungry world cannot afford”. The leaders contacted include Julius Nyerere and Eritrean President Isias Afwerki. For more information on this outrageous PR offensive call The Gaia Foundation on +44 171 435 5000.

(2) Last month Monsanto bought Delta and Pine Land Company, the company which developed the technology to prevent seeds germinating (dubbed “the terminator technology”). Farmers who save seed present a problem to seed companies, so the new technology controls the “problem” of seed saving. The technology was developed in partnership with the US Department of Agriculture.

(3) American Home Products Corp. and Monsanto Co. on the 1st of June unveiled a $34-billion stock swap that would create a drug and biotechnology giant with likely combined sales in 1998 of $23 billion. If the deal passes muster with shareholders and regulators, it would be the largest union ever in the pharmaceutical industry.

(4) Monsanto has also signed a letter of intent with Cargill (announced 15th May 1998) to form a worldwide joint venture to create and market new products enhanced through biotechnology for the grain processing and animal feed markets.

(5) Monsanto and other leading biotechnology companies that failed to stick to agreed plans for field experiments with genetically engineered plants have had their knuckles rapped by Britain's gene police. Though not fined, the culprits have been named publicly and some have been forced to rip up the plots.



Other news on Biotech

(1) international committee rejects call for mandatory labelling of genetically engineered foods: On May 27, after several days of heated discussion in Ottawa, Canada, the UN Codex Alimentarius Commission, delegated by the World Trade Organization to formulate international safety and labelling requirements for food products, once again bowed to the pressure of the United States and its closest allies and delayed making a decision on whether all genetically engineered foods must be labelled. This means that for the time being much of the genetically modified food sold on supermarket shelves will not have to be labelled as such. Codex now will gather more comments on the issue and will bring the topic up for discussion at their meeting next year, where a final decision will be taken that will be legally binding on all members of the World Trade Organization.

(2) Lawsuit Challenges FDA Policy on Genetically Engineered Foods: An unprecedented coalition of scientists, religious leaders, health professionals, consumers and chefs filed suit on 28 May against the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to obtain mandatory safety testing and labelling of all genetically engineered foods. The suit challenges the marketing of 33 different genetically engineered whole foods which are currently being sold without labelling or adequate safety testing. These genetically engineered whole foods are also used as ingredients in processed foods, and have been reported to be present in a number of mass-consumed food products from major soy-based baby formulas to some of the most popular corn chip brands. Contact:


Quad ministers agree on new approach towards trade negotiations

Trade ministers from the so-called Quad powers (the US, EU, Japan and Canada) agreed in their last meeting on a new approach to negotiating further trade liberalization within the WTO. The approach will allow sector-by-sector agreements to remain valid if WTO members subsequently reach accords on at least two other sectors. This differs from traditional arrangements wherein sector-by-sector agreements become invalid if WTO members cannot reach agreement on all negotiating areas.

Quad ministers disagreed however over the so-called Millennium Round of trade talks. The EU and Japan support the launch of a comprehensive trade round to begin in 2000, while Canada warned strongly against such an approach. The US said it is too early to decide on the matter.

Quad ministers also agreed to push for a high-level meeting of the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) well before the end of 1999 in order to advance their co-option of environmental NGOs. US Trade representative Charlene Barshefsky called for the CTE to maintain close consultations with business and non-governmental organizations to ensure “concrete results.”


New threat to forests – timber trade talks under the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

Forests of global ecological significance across the Pacific rim are at stake in these trade talks. The APEC countries are home to 63% of the world's remaining “frontier forests” – large relatively intact primary forest ecosystems. These forests provide habitat to rare and endangered species, sustenance to communities, and carbon sinks that mitigate global warming.

The APEC timber trade talks are aimed at increasing consumption and production of forest products from Pacific Rim forest s. The stated goal of the talks is a reduction in the price of forest products. Logically, if prices drop, demand will rise and logging will increase. A US Department of Agriculture study indicates that more timber would be cut from ecologically sensitive Pacific Northwest old growth forests following the elimination of restrictions on unprocessed logs from public lands, a stated goal of the APEC talks.

The APEC Forest trade talks also could weaken many regulations that are in place to protect forests, including controls on pests and restrictions on exports of unprocessed logs.

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