By Pablo Velasco
- Bolivian general strike
- Muchtar Pakpahan to stand in Indonesian elections
- Good news from Greece
Bolivian general strike
Bolivia is on the verge of a third uprising in the space of a year - with trade unions calling for an indefinite general strike this month.
The uprising in October 2003 led by trade unions, peasant associations and neighbourhood organisations forced President Sanchez de Lozada to resign. The key organisations were the trade union federation COB, the rural workers' union CSTUB and the neighbourhood organisations in La Paz's satellite-city of El Alto.
Vice-president Carlos Mesa, a "self-made" media capitalist, replaced Lozada. After Mesa gave his long awaited presidential message on 1 February, the COB, the CSTUB and the urban organisations met in Cochabamba to begin preparations for an indefinite general strike in mid-February.
A one day city-wide strike has already taken place in La Paz in protest at the parliament's decision to meet somewhere in the middle of the country to avoid public protests.
After Mesa came to power he promised a public consultation over the issue of state control of Bolivia's gas reserves, which had sparked the October uprising, and a reversal of Lozada's neoliberal "reforms''. Unions argue that he is now backtracking on that promise.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is demanding a reduction of the budget deficit, a continuation of Lozada's privatisation of natural gas production, continued destruction of the public sector and an offensive against workers' wages.
Bolivia was already one of the poorest countries in Latin America before neo-liberal policies in the 1990s further exacerbated inequality.
The attempts by unions to organise a fight back have been hampered by the vacillations of campesino leader Evo Morales and the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), the major left-wing presence in the parliament.
Since October the MAS has been broadly supportive of the government, and more concerned with winning the municipal elections later this year and the 2007 presidential race than with mobilising workers.
For more information, see the article by Jorge Jorquera, Green Left Weekly, 11 February.
Muchtar Pakpahan to stand in Indonesian elections
The Social Democratic Labor Party, led by Muchtar Pakpahan, is standing candidates in the forthcoming elections in Indonesia.
Pakpahan founded the Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union (SBSI) during the Suharto dictatorship in 1992. He was imprisoned in 1994 after leading demonstrations in Medan, North Sumatra.
The Social Democratic Labor Party (PBSD) was launched in May 2001 as the political arm of the Confederation of the Indonesian Prosperity Labor Union (F-SBSI). Pakpahan previously organised the National Labor Party (PBN), which won 140,000 votes (0.13%) in the 1999 elections.
The PBSD is a reformist social democratic party, modelled on European socialist and labour parties and the Brazilian Workers' Party. It is campaigning for a welfare state providing access for all to education, housing programs and unemployment benefits. It says this can be funded by ending corruption and by state control of Indonesia's natural resources.
The F-SBSI has 11 unions in 28 provinces, spread throughout the manufacturing, transportation, mining and energy, construction, trading and banking sectors in 1,500 companies. Manufacturing and transportation are the union's strongest sectors, where most of its 1.7 million individual members work. According to the Jakarta Post, there are now 83 unions in Indonesia.
Pakpahan said he expects to gain support from the 25 million workers in Indonesia.
According to the 2002 census, there are 10.5 million production workers, 4.3 million clerical workers, and 2.1 million agricultural workers.
But the PBSD has been hampered by the bureaucratic electoral procedures, and has had the most candidates disqualified by the electoral commission.
Good news from Greece
One of the seven prisoners detained after protests at the EU summit in Thessaloniki in June 2003, Simon Chapman from Britain, has had the charges against him dropped. Simon was locked up for supposedly carrying weapons in his bag. Simon and his supporters maintain that the the police switched his bag for one which contained weapons. At the end of last year Simon and the other six detained demonstrators were granted bail.
The other six detainees were charged with misdemeanours. Twelve people who had not been detained but had been charged have also had their charges dropped. The Greek courts have asked for investigations against another ten people to continue as the evidence against them was full of contradictions.
All the detainees had mounted hunger strikes, five of long duration.