The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.60/No.9           March 4, 1996 
In Brief  

Seoul, Tokyo dispute islands
The South Korean military conducted military exercises February 15 involving destroyers, patrol boats, jet fighters, and reconnaissance planes in response to a sovereignty dispute with Tokyo over a bed of islands located about halfway between the two countries. Japanese foreign minister Yukihiko Ikeda demanded February 9 that Seoul cancel plans to spend some $20 million to build a 250-foot pier on the largest of the islands.

South Korean president Kim Young Sam angrily canceled a meeting between officials of the two countries planned for February 12 and threatened to junk another meeting scheduled in March. South Korean newspapers reported that the nation's navy and air force were prepared to seize any Japanese fishing boats that cross into South Korean territorial waters.

Yeltsin seeks reelection in Russia
On February 15 Russian president Boris Yeltsin announced he is a candidate for president in the June 16 elections. Yeltsin promised to end delayed payments in wages and pensions as well as his bloody and unpopular war against Chechnya. "We are obliged to untangle the Chechen knot much more quickly - within months," he stated, while ruling out an immediate troop withdrawal.

Hours after announcing his candidacy, Yeltsin fired the head of Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, Oleg Poptsov. According to the New York Times, Yeltsin's aides said he was displeased with the TV coverage of Moscow's assault on the Chechens. Igor Malashenko, the president of NTV, a leading television network, joined Poptsov in a news conference February 16 in a show of solidarity. "The people who are trying to force journalists to engage in propaganda in the long run undermine their own chances of success," he said.

Mandela bans public weapons
South African president Nelson Mandela announced February 15 a ban on spears, clubs, and other weapons at public events. "Let me make it abundantly clear that anyone who elects to defy the laws of the land will be punished fully," he told the South African Parliament. Mandela said carrying such weapons to political rallies and marches creates an atmosphere that could easily deteriorate into bloody riots.

Mandela said February 2 that the government would consider all violence and killings as criminal and not as a political issue. Supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) have fomented massacres in KwaZulu-Natal, where some estimate that more than 14,000 people have been killed in a decade of violence. IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi declared that IFP followers would fight to defend their "God-given right to carry their cultural" weapons "whenever they wish."

Caribbean hit by banana dispute
The Clinton administration filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization in mid-February seeking to force the European Union to end its policy of setting aside some of the Union's market for banana producers in Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean. Edsil Edmonds, St. Lucia ambassador to the United States and the Organization of American States, told Carib News that Latin American banana exporters, especially the U.S. firm Chiquita, already controlled more than two- thirds of the European market and were attempting to capture the entire market at the expense of African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries.

Edmonds said if Washington's complaint is upheld the results could be devastating for countries in the Caribbean, which are already burdened with an oversupply of bananas and a drop in prices. Caribbean diplomats in Washington, Brussels, and London, one of whom noted that Chiquita is a large financial contributor to both the Democratic and Republican parties, said the Clinton administration is pressing ahead with the complaint to protect Chiquita's interests.

Workers in Honduras protest
Hundreds of workers took over the streets in Honduras February 12 demanding a minimum wage increase. Union members blocked roads linking central and northern Honduras and some protesters built barricades with burning tires.

Colombia president indicted
Colombian president Ernesto Samper was charged February 14 of illegal enrichment, falsifying documents, fraud, and cover- up by the country's chief prosecutor Alfonso Valdivieso. Samper, engulfed in a political storm since July when his campaign treasurer testified that the campaign received at least $6 million from cocaine dealers, could face impeachment. In a taped interview with the New York Times that he later denied making, Samper said February 16, "What I am seeking is to be able to leave in a dignified way."

Cops kill another Black youth
Christopher Thomas, a 28-year-old Black man, was shot in the head by a police officer in Paterson, New Jersey, February 13. The killing came one year after a Paterson cop killed 16-year- old Lawrence Meyers.

Some young men threw bottles at the cops, smashing the windshield of a patrol car, after word of Thomas's death spread through the housing project where he was shot. "He wasn't armed. He wasn't killing anybody, so why would anyone shoot him?" asked Joyce Pitts, the 55-year-old aunt of Thomas. "When are we are going to get justice here?" one man asked the New York Times.

Nazi flags down at Ft. Bragg
The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina, reported that U.S. army commanders ordered soldiers of the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg to pull down all flags, including Nazi and Confederate flags, because they were divisive and disrupting the base. Three 82nd Airborne paratroopers were charged in December with the murder of two Black people. The police stated two of the GIs were racist skinheads who expressed hatred of Blacks. Five soldiers from the same army division were caught in their barracks in January wearing racist skinhead attire and posing with a Nazi flag for a magazine photographer.

Cases reversed in Philadelphia
The district attorney's office in Philadelphia, which is reviewing 1,400 arrests made from 1987 to 1992, stated that it would seek to reverse 43 new cases because of corrupt cops. This would bring the total number of cases and convictions reversed in the 39th Police District to 99.

Six former cops confessed to planting drugs on people, robbing them, and lying on police reports. Almost half the people whose convictions were overturned filed federal lawsuits or indicated to city officials their intentions to sue, which could cost the city millions of dollars. "An enormous amount of damage has been done," stated Bradley Bridge, a public defender who said he sent prosecutors a new list of cases he wanted overturned. "There are many more to come," he added.

Anti-immigrant order signed
U.S. president Bill Clinton signed an executive order February 13 that would penalize companies that knowingly hire undocumented workers from receiving federal contracts for one year. "American jobs belong to America's legal workers," Clinton blustered. Federal officials raided a construction site in Atlanta arresting 20 Mexicans and Hondurans February 12, in an assault against immigrants linked with the presidential decree.


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