The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.62/No.42           November 23, 1998 
In Brief  
Brazil gov't plans drastic cuts to meet IMF `bailout' demands
The Brazilian government on October 27 revealed its plan to cut the budget by 20 percent in order to receive a $30-50 billion "bailout" package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and imperialist banks, including those in the United States. Aspects of the austerity measures include: axing up to 30,000 government jobs and leaving 15,000 current job openings unfilled, imposing a 15 percent tax on pensions for retirees, raising the "pension contribution" deducted from government workers' pay from 11 to 15 percent, reinstituting a gas tax, and cutting free school lunches. The official announcement was held until after the Brazilian president, Fernando Enrique Cardozo, secured his reelection October 4. Foreign banks and investors have refused the Brazilian government's request to have the current debt rolled over in order to get a new capital injection.

Unions have opposed the austerity plan. In the last half year, the Movement of Landless Rural Workers has helped lead protests against the economic crisis that is affecting most of Brazil's 160 million residents.

These actions have included organized seizures of food and other goods, which are then redistributed to landless peasants. Reflecting the pressure of this resistance, opposition parties to the left of Cardozo won the state elections in three key states in the October vote.

Tel Aviv balks on `peace' accord
The Israeli government on November 6 suspended all meetings and deliberations to ratify "peace accords" that would supposedly turn over 13 percent of West Bank lands, occupied by Israeli forces, to Palestinian hands. Israeli officials cited a recent car bomb at a market place in Jerusalem as the reason for halting negotiations.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, before the Jerusalem explosion, was stalling negotiations by demanding that the Palestinian Authority, headed by Yasser Arafat, arrest 30 Palestinians Tel Aviv accuses in the deaths of 100 Israelis. Only 3 percent of the West Bank has been given back to full Palestinian control. Another 20-25 percent is administratively run by the Palestinian Authority, but remains under control of Tel Aviv and its police forces.

Zimbabweans protest fuel prices
Protests erupted in Zimbabwe November 4 after the government there announced a 67 percent hike in gas prices several days earlier. Taxi cab and bus drivers began the action by blocking entrance routes into the capital city of Harare with their vehicles. Many toilers stayed away from work that day. Youth in the southern African country, as well as workers and others, joined the drivers in setting up barricades around Harare. Police attacked demonstrators with tear gas and batons and arrested some of the protesters.

Germany: antichoice law tanked
Germany's highest court in late October threw out a Bavarian law passed in 1996 that tried to limit women's access to abortion by putting a cap on the amount a doctor could earn for performing the procedure. The Constitutional Court, in a 5-to-3 vote against the law, pointed out that federal legislation passed in 1995 made the Bavarian law unconstitutional. The restrictive law was supposed to go into effect last year, but was blocked by the court pending its ruling.

Ankara hinders Iran oil pipeline
The Turkish government imposed new navigation rules on travel through the Bosporus Strait November 6, trying to edge off adversaries in the race to extract Caspian Sea oil and sell it on world markets. The strait is the only way for oil tankers to get from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Tehran is moving to set up a pipeline for the oil running through Iran to the Black Sea. Already in place is a pipeline through Georgia.

Under the new regulations, Ankara can stop traffic when water currents are unfavorable, stop any ship on legal grounds, require ships to use local pilots, demand more advanced notice for vessels traveling on the strait, and raise transit fees five-fold. The announcement of the new regulations came as final deals were being made between the governments of Turkey and Azerbaijan to construct a pipeline through those countries. Washington is backing Ankara's oil route. Oil moguls, including those from France, the United States, and Italy have invested in pipeline projects with Tehran.

Moscow can't pay foreign loans
"Either we have to take extraordinary measures for squeezing out this money from all spheres of the economy or agree on a restructuring of our debt," said First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, referring to the $3.5 billion debt Moscow owes to foreign lenders. "We are choosing the second path."

The Russian government has faced sizable, sustained protests by workers across the country over the last year, demanding back payment of wages and pensions. Former Russian prime minister Sergei Kiriyenko, who was fired in August following the ruble devaluation and the moratorium on repaying foreign loans, made a statement opposing Moscow's current moves. The 1999 foreign debt, totaling $17.5 billion, is probably not going to be paid either. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has withheld the next installment of its bailout package until Moscow presents a restructuring plan imperialist bankers want to see -stiffer collections of taxes and opening up more Russian markets for foreign capitalists to invest.

Meanwhile, U.S. agriculture secretary Dan Glickman announced a plan to send $500 million worth of food aid to Russia. The 3.1 million metric ton package is ostensibly set up to aid Russians who face price hikes of up to 50 percent and the worst grain harvest in 40 years. Only 100,000 tons of the entire package - which is considerably less than what the Russian government had requested - will reportedly be provided free. The remaining will be sold to Moscow on a new 20-year loan.

Puerto Rico: campus employees strike, demand closed union shop
"No one gets in here," vowed Carmen Santiago, a laboratory technician who is part of a blockade set up by University of Puerto Rico employees, demanding that all non-teaching employees hired be brought into the union.

The 3,200-strong Brotherhood of Exempt Non-Faculty Employees began their strike at 13 campuses in early November. About 1,200 workers are currently not in the union. Many professors honored the picket lines. At some campuses workers parked dozens of cars in front of campus entrances November 4 to block traffic.

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