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   Vol. 67/No. 35           October 13, 2003  
Unionists, youth seek out
Calero in Sweden, Iceland
STOCKHOLM, Sweden—On his September 11-12 visit here Róger Calero talked with meat packers and high school students about his recent victory against the U.S. immigration authorities’ attempt to deport him. He was also the featured speaker at a public meeting organized as part of his “Sí Se Puede/Fight to Win” international tour. Calero arrived in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, from a visit to Gothenburg in the south of the country.

A number of workers and youth in Sweden had signed letters of protest on hearing of Calero’s jailing on Dec. 3, 2002. The Militant staff writer and Perspectiva Mundial editor was seized by immigration agents at Houston Intercontinental Airport as the first step in deporting him to his native Nicaragua. The U.S. government dropped the case in May after a public campaign won widespread backing for his fight (see accompanying article from El Español for details of the case).

At the Samfood meatpacking plant Calero met some of the 30 workers who had signed a petition in support of his struggle. Lars Bykvist, the president of the Foodworkers Union local in the plant, escorted him into the cafeteria.

A worker from Chile described a spate of recent restaurant raids in which the Stockholm police targeted immigrant workers for arrest and deportation. A meat packer from Turkey, who is shop steward for the union in the plant, discussed the question of speedup and job safety. “When a worker gets injured, the bosses have to pay. It’s their responsibility,” he said.

A Kurdish worker said that he had been working at Samfood for a year in consecutive temporary hirings. “This way they can take our job from us whenever it suits them,” he said.

Calero talked to two women from Bosnia sitting at a table. Others gathered around as he explained the organizing drive at Dakota Premium Foods, the Minnesota meatpacking plant where he had worked.

Safa Al Aboudi described his struggle for citizenship. In spite of law permitting foreign-born legal residents to become citizens after five years, after seven years in Sweden Al Aboudi has still not been granted his citizenship. Authorities have refused to accept his Iraqi ID card as valid identification.

A reporter from the Foodworkers union paper took pictures and gathered material for an article during the visit, after interviewing Calero earlier.

The day before Calero had visited a high school in Huddinge, in the south of the city. He and supporters handed out leaflets promoting that evening’s public meeting. One signed up for a Perspectiva Mundial subscription.

Supporters of the defense campaign organized the public meeting, at which Calero discussed the lessons of his fight. Anita Östling from the Communist League, the sister organization of Calero’s party, the Socialist Workers Party, also spoke.


REYKJAVÍK, Iceland—“It’s wonderful to know that those little steps, like me signing for my family, can make such a big difference,” said Katrín Sigurdardóttir to Róger Calero September 14. Sigurdardóttir and Helga Valdimarsdóttir met with Calero in the town of Keflavik September 14. Sigurdardóttir had signed the petition for the anti-deportation fight in February after meeting Lawrence Mikesh, a supporter of Calero’s fight from Miami.

For the past year the women have helped organize protests against cuts in services in Keflavik’s public health clinic. “It is a basic right to have health care in our own community,” Valdimarsdóttir said.

The day before Calero spoke to more than 20 people at a public meeting in Reykjavík. Among them was Högni Eyjólfsson. A month earlier he and his companion, who is from Sierra Leone, had been kept in jail overnight after their apartment had been searched for several hours. The cops said they were investigating claims that the couple might be assisting illegal immigration to Iceland. Robert Marshall, president of the Union of Icelandic Journalists, also attended the meeting.

Ólöf Andra Proppé spoke on behalf of the Communist League in Iceland, which was instrumental in winning support for Calero. She described attacks on immigrants by the Icelandic government, including the deportation to Greece of an Albanian woman and her children, in spite of the woman’s ill-health and the fact that her husband was nowhere to be found. This was done under the Schengen Agreement—a European border-control pact signed by 15 governments. The agreement states that if an applicant for refugee status has a work permit in another country that is part of the agreement, they must be sent to that country.

Proppé described a fight for union wages by workers on a dam construction site at Kárahnjúkar in eastern Iceland. Site workers, both Icelandic and foreign-born, held a meeting with union representatives, where they made clear that they want the union to renegotiate their contracts.

On September 15, the last day of Calero’s international tour, he met with two of these workers to discuss their fight. He also visited workers in the Grandi fish processing plant, spoke at a class in MK High School, and met with officials of the Efling trade union.

Efling organizes unskilled workers in Reykjavík, including food workers, and has a membership of around 20,000, some 2,000 of whom are immigrants. Calero met with union president Sigurdur Bessason and Thráinn Hallgrímsson, the editor of the union’s paper, which gave substantial coverage to his defense effort. Bessason noted that the fight that’s developing at Kárahnjúkar will be a test of what the bosses can get away with elsewhere in Iceland.

At MK High School, Calero spoke to several combined classes in history, a group of 70 students. One student asked: “Do I understand you correctly, that you are for socialism and against capitalism?”

“That is correct,” replied Calero, as his final remark on his international “Fight to Win” tour.
Related articles:
‘El Español’ covers Calero’s Sydney visit  
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