Cyprus, the third-largest island in the Mediterranean, has been a point of conflict between Greek imperialism and Turkey's capitalist rulers for decades. In 1960 Cyprus won independence from the United Kingdom, but remained dominated by British imperialism, which maintains two military bases there today and made Ankara and Athens "guarantors" of the new state. In 1974 the military regime in Greece organized a coup to overthrow the government in Cyprus and annex it. Ankara waged a counterinvasion, ostensibly to protect the Turkish-Cypriot minority, and in 1983 declared the northern part it occupies independent.
Dock workers strike in Greece
Dock workers at Piraeus and Thessaloniki, Greece's two largest commercial ports, began a six-day strike June 18 against government plans to auction off a 49 percent stake of the state-owned port operation on the Athens stock market. Unionists say the so-called restructuring will lead to layoffs.
That same day, postal workers staged a 24-hour strike in opposition to Athens's plan to "reform" that service, which it says operates at a loss. The Greek government is trying to push through these austerity measures under the banner of reducing its budget deficit below 3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product - a requirement for joining the European common currency.
Polish workers block rail traffic
Rail engine drivers in Poland went on strike June 17, affecting a third of passenger and freight traffic. The strikers, who are not backed by the pro-government Solidarity union, are demanding a 15 percent wage increase and the tripling of government funding for the industry. The Polish government has threatened to sue the rail workers for the losses they incurred.
Teachers in Israel strike
Thousands of teachers in Israel - from kindergarten to high school - put down their chalk June 7 in a one-day strike to protest the Israeli government's pension "reforms." Under the teachers' current "non-contributory" pension plan, nothing is charged over and above the years of labor put in. Tel Aviv's "reforms" would force teachers to pay more for pensions out of their wages. Avraham Shabat, secretary-general of the teachers union, warned that the next school year will be delayed if the government maintains its stance. Education Ministry director general Ben Zion Dell said the strikers were "hurting the image of the teachers that the Education Ministry has been working so hard to nurture."
Dozens of south Korean companies are on the brink
Faced with a devastating currency crisis, the south Korean government has placed 55 companies unable to make payments on bank loans on a "death list." South Korean capitalists carry a domestic debt of $432 billion in unpaid loans issued to Korean businesses. Companies on the official list are not eligible for loans, leaving little chance for them to survive. But those companies can sell off their assets or seek a merger. The defaults make it difficult for the banks to pay on the $150 billion debt owed to foreign bankers, causing foreign capitalists to pull investments out of the country.
This situation triggered a currency crisis there in December, which led the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to come in with a $58 billion dollar "bailout" package. The IMF has used the so-called bailout to pressure Seoul to cut government subsidies and shut down debt-ridden companies, allow foreign capitalists to penetrate deeper into its economy and buy up national property, and try to take back gains won by the working class.
Coup attempt in Guinea-Bissau
Heavy fighting is raging in the west African country of Guinea-Bissau as Brig. Ansumane Mane, former chief of the armed forces, clashed with the government there in an attempted coup that was launched June 7. The battle has drawn in the Senegalese government, which has joined forces with the regime in Guinea-Bissau, declaring that separatist rebels in Senegal have joined forces with Mane.
Mane's forces tried to take the capital city, Bissau, but government troops have surrounded a garrison occupied by the mutineers just outside that city. Mane was dismissed in January, accused of arming Senegalese rebels. Guinea-Bissau was first claimed as a colony of Portugal in 1886, but it took half a century of "pacification" campaigns for the colonizers to consolidate their control. After decades of resistance and an independence movement in the 1960s, the Guinea-Bissau people threw out the Portuguese rulers in 1974.
Venezuela labor protests heat up
Teachers, doctors, and other health workers took part in a "taking of Caracas" demonstration June 18, marching through the streets of the capital Caracas and other cities demanding, among other things, wage increases. Public teachers began a 72-hour strike the day before, and doctors and nurses are threatening the same. Labor Minister Marķa Bernardoni pleaded workers to "understand" the economic crisis that has been exacerbated by the drop in oil prices. The price of Venezuelan oil has averaged $11.17 per barrel this year, down from $16.32 last year and $18.39 in 1996. Oil revenues account for 40 percent of the government's budget, 77 percent of foreign-exchange earnings, and 22 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.
Carlos Borges, acting president of the Venezuelan Workers Confederation and a leader in the public sector workers' union, warned that "an uncontrollable escalation of conflict that would threaten democratic order" would be set into motion if some wage demands were not met. About 70 percent of 23 million Venezuelans live in poverty according to government figures, and unemployment is at 13 percent.
More cops, more brutality
The U.S. Justice department reported June 7 that the number of full-time state and local cops assigned to patrol the streets increased by more than 19 percent between 1992 and 1996. Some 663,535 full-time cops with arrest powers were in active duty in 1996, 64 percent of whom were assigned to street patrols, up from 59 percent in 1993. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, there are no national figures available on police brutality, but a recent report issued by Amnesty International focusing on New York City paints a picture. From 1992 to 1996 at least 80 people in New York were killed by cops under "questionable" circumstances.
The New York City government was forced to pay $98 million dollars in settlements for police abuse complaints in that period. The majority of the thousands of complaints filed - which are up more than 60 percent since 1992 - are from Blacks. According to a 1996 Amnesty International report, "it is rare for NYPD officers to be criminally prosecuted for on-duty excessive force and even rarer for convictions to be obtained."
Real threat of `Megan's Law'
Two weeks after police circulated fliers with the photo and address of a man in Linden, New Jersey, who had been paroled after 16 years in prison on rape charges, five shots were fired into his residence June 16. Neighbors told the press that the man had lived there uneventfully since 1992, until the leaflets were distributed under "Megan's Law." Joan Bazydlo, a fellow tenant whose apartment was actually hit by the bullets, said that after the flyers went around, drivers began passing by issuing threats and sending threatening letters. State officials said they would investigate the shooting, but denied the incident demonstrated the danger of vigilantism under the law.
- BRIAN TAYLOR
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