The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.60/No.29           August 19, 1996 
In Brief  

Tel Aviv shuts West Bank again
Israeli troops once again blockaded the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank July 26, citing the killing of two Israeli citizens allegedly by Palestinian gunmen. This action, which prevents 1 million Palestinians from entering Israel, came just three days after newly elected Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had announced a slight easing of the five- month closure of the Palestinian self-ruled areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Even that limited measure would have only allowed 10,000 Palestinians who normally work in Israel to cross the border, and only persons over 30 years of age and married.

Half million strike in Israel
Hundreds of thousands of workers in Israel went on strike July 17 to protest budget cuts of $1.5 billion and thousands demonstrated outside parliament in Jerusalem. It was a 10-hour strike, led by Histadrut trade union federation, which has over 700,000 members in private industry and government service. The walkout closed the Haifa oil refineries, the Israel Electric Corporation, the giant Israel Chemicals corporation, and the Mekorot Water Company and spread throughout the city closing all government offices, hospitals, the postal service, fire departments, day-care centers, and Israel TV.

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange was forced to close, still spinning from 10 days of losses after a 15 percent drop since the budget cuts were announced. Among the planned budget cuts are more expensive bus fares and doctor's visits, lower child- care allowances, cutting pension plans for civil servants, and reduced spending in the public sector, eliminating as many as 10,000 jobs.

U.S. Congress passes sanctions against Iran, Libya investments
The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation July 23 approving sanctions on foreign countries for investing in the oil industries of Iran and Libya. U.S. companies already face restrictions to investing in either country because of Washington's allegations that they are "rogue" nations that support terrorism. The Senate has already passed the bill and congressional aides said U.S. president William Clinton will sign it. The bill allows the president to impose two of six sanctions. Sanctions include export and import bans on companies, denial of U.S. bank loans and official credit, and exclusion from U.S. government contracts and markets.

Hugo Paemen, the European Commission ambassador to the United States, called the bill "an extreme case of extraterritorial legislation" and warned that the European Union "is now considering countermeasures in order to defend its citizens and industries." Libyan officials condemned the sanctions as "state- sponsored terrorism."

Loan delay for Russia
The International Monetary Fund said it will delay its $330 million monthly payment to Russia, citing problems with tax collection, according to July 23 news reports. The IMF has set strict conditions in order for Russia to receive its $10.2 billion three-year loan granted in February, including monthly reviews of Russia's economic status. The payment delay by the IMF comes three weeks after Russian president Boris Yeltsin's re-election.

A few days after the IMF decision, the Russian central bank announced it plans to limit foreign investors in treasury bills to 19 percent yields. Many capitalists had been raking in up to 200 percent returns by investing in the treasury market through Russian intermediaries.

Meanwhile, a nearly two-week strike by coal miners in Russia's Far East had swollen to 8,500 by July 26. The workers have not been paid in five months. Power plant workers in the Primorye region are also protesting unpaid wages, and 106 have begun a hunger strike.

Aborigines die in Australia jails
In mid-July two Aboriginal men died in jail in Australia, one in Queensland and one in New South Wales. This brings to 100 the number of Aborigines who have died in police custody since June 1989. Amnesty International reported 22 Aborigines died in detention last year - the highest annual number since records started being kept in 1980.

London holds up EU retaliation against U.S. anti-Cuba law
The British government, saying it needs to protect its own sovereignty, has waffled on the European Union's attempt to retaliate against the U.S. legislation tightening the embargo on Cuba, commonly known as the Helms-Burton law. The law opens the door for private court actions against foreign companies that "traffic" in Cuban property that was nationalized after the revolution in 1959. London asked for and received a "stay of execution" on the draft, saying British officials needed time to study its provisions.

The Spanish hotel giant Sol Meliá said it will stay in Cuba and begin a lobbying campaign to revoke the Helms-Burton law. Sol Meliá operates six hotels in Cuba and had sales of $1 billion in 1995. Officials of the hotel giant said they would rather pull out of Miami Beach than leave Cuba.

Argentina's recession
Argentine president Carlos Menem dismissed his finance minister, Domingo Cavallo, July 26 after some members of Menem's Peronist Party said they would oppose Cavallo's budget cut plans. The economy in Argentina plunged into in a deep recession following the Mexican financial crisis last year.

Protests had mounted against government cuts from social benefits and some union officials called for Cavallo's ouster saying his policies had led to record unemployment and increased poverty. They organized a demonstration July 26 of 30,000, and are planning a general strike in August. Hugo Moyano, the leader of the truck drivers' union, told the Washington Post, "Changing a person doesn't change unemployment or poverty."

Peasants in Colombia
The Colombian army stopped a march by thousands of peasants who were heading to San José del Guaviare, southwest of Colombia, protesting the destruction of their coca farms. The peasants had organized a strike in Guaviare since July 13 against a government measure that restricts democratic rights.

Several people were injured in clashes when the army confronted the peasants in riot gear and threw tear gas at them. The struggle involves some 15,000 peasants concentrated mainly in the town of Miraflores, southwest of Bogotá, where most of the coca farms are located.

Thousands of Bosnians protest
Thousands of Bosnian veterans demonstrated at the parliament building in Sarajevo July 26 demanding the government pay back pensions and other state aid. In other developments, chauvanist Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic announced his resignation from his political posts July 21. U.S. spokesman Richard Holbrooke declared that Washington still wants Karadzic brought to trial for alleged war crimes.

Profit crisis for steelmakers
Competition is tightening in the steel industry worldwide, putting downward pressure on prices. According to the UN Economic Commission for Europe, the world is heading for a glut of crude steel capacity in the next few years. The Wall Street Journal reported July 18 that it is "bizarre" that U.S. steelmakers have been slashing prices while the industry is in "its third consecutive year of booming production and theoretically in a position to rake in enormous profits. But profitless prosperity may be about as good as it gets."


Linda Harris in Sydney, Australia, contributed to this column.  
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