Colombia’s biggest coal exporter attacked with explosives
BOGOTA (Reuters) – Unknown assailants bombed the rail line of Colombia’s largest coal exporter on Thursday, knocking 17 wagons off the rails, the Cerrejon coal company said. The latest attack comes only days after Cerrejon and its workers signed a wage deal to end a strike that had paralyzed exports for a month and cost the government millions of dollars in lost royalties. “Around 4:45 am (05. 45 a.m. EDT), the train, which headed towards the coal port of Puerto Bolivar, was attacked with explosives … which produced the derailment of 17 wagons,” Cerrejon said in a statement. The company, which is a joint venture between Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Xstrata, did not blame any specific group in the area for the assault.
The security forces, however, usually accuse the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, for these types of attacks. Rebels and the government are currently trying to reach a peace deal in talks in Cuba. “We call on the authorities … to redouble efforts to ensure our safety and that of the company,” the Sintracarbon union said in a statement. In late February, assailants blew up four trucks at Cerrejon’s Mina Sur mining area in Guajira province. On Monday, Cerrejon and its labor union signed a three-year wage agreement ending a walkout by workers that started on February 7 and forced the company to declare force majeure on some cargoes.
Second Vigil for Slain Brooklyn Teen Turns Violent
A candlelight vigil for an East Flatbush teenager shot and killed by police over the weekend turned violent Wednesday night, as protesters ran through the streets and clashed with police officers along Church Avenue for the second time. The vigil in honor of 16-year-old Kimani Gray had been planned as an occasion for his grieving mother to address mourners and the media, but her remarks never happened. Instead, activists encouraged some of the 200 people to march towards the New York Police Department’s 67th Precinct, ending in dozens of arrests.
The teenager was fatally shot by two plainclothes police officers late Saturday night after he allegedly pointed a .38 caliber revolver at them. Police said the boy had been approached by the officers because he was behaving suspiciously and fiddling with his waistband — suggesting he was concealing a weapon. Family and friends of the teenager have disputed that he had a gun. The officers, who have not been identified, fired 11 shots and hit the teenager seven times, according to results of an autopsy released earlier Wednesday.
Joy Cutting, a family friend who said she had known Mr. Gray since birth, believed the autopsy showed the teen hadn’t been pointing a gun at the officers. “If he was trying to shoot the cops, they would have shot him in the front,” she said at the vigil. Investigators determined Mr. Gray was struck once in the back of his left shoulder, once in back of each thigh, twice in the front right thigh, once in the left rib cage and once in the left forearm. A spokeswoman for the city’s chief medical examiner said the coroner was still investigating the details shooting.
Striking Bogota University Workers Reject Proposals
Bogota, Mar 13 (Prensa Latina) Non teaching workers from the National university of Bogota remained today on strike for 23th consecutive day after rejecting proposals made by a committee of a Superior Council of that center. Dialogue failed yesterday as the parties disagreed on the central aspect of the demands’ a salary standardization’ with the University claiming lack of funds to be able to implement it. While the Council offers striking workers an increase of 400,000 Colombian pesos (222 USD) to work for a year, they consider the figure very low and will not lift the strike until they get a serious, respectful proposal.
“The university directors claim that the salaries we receive are good. That’s why we decided to occupy peacefully the rector’s office building, said spokesman for the workers”, Juan Carlos Arango. Talks are expected to be renewed in the Education Ministry, a decision still pending official confirmation. The strike, backed by the university branch of Palmira, in the Cauca Valley, will be joined by that from Manizales department, according to press reports. The strike is also supported by broad student and professor sectors.
Protests bring UKZN to a halt
Durban – The Durban campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal was brought to a standstill on Wednesday when riot police were brought in to control protesting students and restore calm after lectures were disrupted and a student was hit on the head with a brick. Students were continuing the protests, which started on Monday, for better accommodation, after they were put up in what they said were “unsafe” hotels in the Point area.
“We will not stop until we are given proper accommodation,” said one of the leaders, addressing a cheering crowd with a megaphone. The university said it had obtained a court interdict “restraining any further disruptions and illegal gatherings on the university’s five campuses”. “We wish to reiterate that the student accommodation matter that arose over the weekend is under investigation. At present, the students are being accommodated in various facilities in the city.” “The university is committed to peaceful and constructive dialogue to address student issues,” the statement read.
The students’ anger began after they were refused entry to Durban’s Royal Hotel. UKZN had arranged for them to stay there after they had been forced to check out of Coastlands Hotel, which had another, long-standing booking. The 500-plus destitute students were guests in the hotel because of ongoing problems at the university’s residences. While student leaders, who did not wish to be named, alleged the protests were about creating awareness and no one had been intimidated, several students not involved in the action painted a violent picture. Tania Brauninger, a second-year student, said protesters barged into lectures and threw rocks, board dusters and bottles at those present.
When students refused to leave, the protesters left, but returned later in greater numbers. They then turned off the lights and more items were thrown. Second-year engineering student Tyler da Silva recounted similar events. “They first rolled up the projector screen, and then began to make as much noise as possible, hitting desks, kicking doors and drumming with the sticks they had brought along,” he said. Outside the lecture halls, on the steps leading to the Student Union, blood clearly stained the ground, tangible evidence of the violence.
The university’s spokeswoman, Nomonde Mbadi, confirmed a student was injured when hit by a brick, and was taken to hospital. King Edward VIII Hospital spokesman Nontobeko Ndlela said a student was being assessed by doctors, but was in no condition to speak to the media. Students complained pepper spray was used on them by security guards. The students plan to continue protesting until their demands are met. Yesterday they were also sending around a petition to be signed in support of their right to protest. Police spokesman Thulani Zwane confirmed police had been sent to manage the situation.
Greek students protest against university overhaul
Thousands of students from around Greece on Thursday demonstrated in Athens on Thursday against a planned university overhaul mandated by austerity cuts. Two separate demonstrations were held outside the education ministry and in front of Athens University in the city centre. “We are fighting for strong university degrees,” read a banner outside the ministry where around 2,000 students had gathered.
“We are not the generation of unemployment,” said another outside the university. According to the latest figures released on Thursday, unemployment for youths aged 15-24 is currently at 57.8 percent. According to the education ministry, the overhaul is meant to address chronic deficiencies such as the dispersal of faculties across many Greek cities and towns.
Greece currently has 24 universities and 16 technical schools, combining for 534 faculties. The ministry wants to reduce this to 21 universities, 13 technical schools and 384 faculties. But the plan has also raised protests from rural towns that depend on student spending for their revenue. In the western town of Messolonghi, where a local technical school is earmarked for closure, riot police were deployed over the weekend to keep a deputy minister away from angry residents, including the town mayor.
A study published last year showed that Greeks spend 5.2 billion euros ($6.5 billion) annually on education, even though much of the system is ostensibly free. Greece’s education system has been chronically plagued by funding shortages, poor quality and protests that can keep schools and universities shut for weeks. Many Greeks traditionally study abroad — with Britain and the United States the favoured choices — but with unemployment among the young at over 50 percent, and incomes dwindling, families are facing stark choices. Salaries in Greece have been cut by up to 40 percent under an austerity policy adopted by the cash-strapped country since 2010 in return for EU-IMF bailouts.
INDIA: Indians in the Northeast protest the European Union Free Trade Agreement
Dear friends, The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding peaceful protests against the adoption of the European Union (EU) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Indian government. The cases took place on 24 February in Maram Khullen, 28 February in Chandel and on 2 March of 2013 in Thamnapokpi. Demonstrators called for transparency, debate in Parliament and state assemblies, environmental considerations, and respect for the rights of local indigenous peoples over their land and sources of livelihood.
CASE NARRATIVE: Several peaceful protests took place in the Northeast states of India over the past month to address concerns over the implications of the EU-FTA with India. Protestors are concerned over the lack of transparency in the Bill, violation of the rights of the indigenous people, and the threat increased imports would make to local businesses and livelihoods. They have also voiced concern over the perceived threat of the agreement favoring large companies and pursuing corporate agendas favorable to multinational EU corporations to the detriment of locals.
An aspect of the proposed FTA includes removing tariffs for 90 percent of agricultural products between the parties, allowing for EU companies to gain access to a market that has been largely controlled by local producers, inhibiting the ability of locals to earn a livelihood, and causing the local agriculture industry to be vulnerable to global volatilities. Indigenous Indians also voiced concern over the building of the Tipaimukh Dam in Manipur. The building of the proposed dams would cause flooding of huge forest areas and agricultural lands of the indigenous peoples, likely causing displacement of indigenous Indians from their homes. An additional concern of the proposed EU-FTA agreement is the clause for establishing mineral extraction industries in India.
These extractive industries have the potential to inhibit the livelihood of indigenous people in the Northeast, and risk the displacement of the indigenous peoples from their traditionally owned land, as foreign companies are given contracts to the land. Petroleum exploration in Manipur has potential negative ramifications for the indigenous people of the area as well as negative environmental implications. In fact the proposed extraction of petroleum in Manipur has never undergone a satisfactory public consultation. 24 February 2013:
In collaboration with the Bianchi Social Care ministry, Senapati, the Maram Khullen Women Society organized a protest in Maram Khullen, Senapati district, Manipur. Over 100 Indians participated in the public consultation turned rally. The protestors required that the Indian government discuss the agreement in Parliament and State Assemblies before signing it into effect. The protestors furthered their cause to demand that the Indian government respect the rights of indigenous peoples over their own land and resources in the Northeast.
Rally slogans included: “No to lndia-EU FTA” “People have Self-determination Over Land and Resources and Its Management,” “No to Mega Dams,” “Stop Tipairnukh Dam,” “Stop Petroleum Exploration in Manipur,’ “Go Back NHPC,” “Go Back Jubilant Oil and Gas Pvt Ltd,” “Revoke MoU on Tipaimukh Dam,” “Cancel Petroleum Exploration Licences,” “We Want Justice, Equity and Rights Not Exploitation and Profit,” “Free Trade is Not Fair Trade,” “FTAs: Don’t Trade Away Our Freedom,” “FTAs: Don’t Trade Away our Human Rights,” and ” Free Trade is A Deadly Exploitation of the Poor.”
Fishermen protest against forced eviction
BISHNUPUR, March 13(NNN): Hundreds of fishermen residing in the surrounding area of Loktak Lake in Manipur`s Bishnupur district today staged a protest dharna airing thier voice against the burning down of their floating huts and their forced eviction by the Loktak Development Authority (LDA).
The demonstration jointly organized by All Loktak Lake Fishermen Union (ALLFU), Committee on the Protection of Natural Resources in Manipur (CPNRM), Concern for Dam and Development (CCDO) and Life Water. They chanted slogans like “Loktak Project Act should be Cancelled” and `Ithai Dam be Removed.” Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the protest, ALLFU secretary Rajen alleged that the steps being taken up by both the Manipur Government and LDA are not meant for the welfare of the area and its people.
He described the policy as a serious violation of rights of the poor fishermen who have been depending on the lake, the largest freshwater lake in North East India, since the time of their forefathers. Waste materials and phumdis (floating biomass) in the lake are not the byproduct of fishing activities in the water of the lake, he maintained, pointing out that their origins are the Imphal River and the Nambul River. He also said the fishermen in the area will not accept the Government’s plan to provide them with alternative occupation because their main occupation is fishing.
Thousands protest unemployment in Algeria
Thousands of protesters have rallied in central Algeria over a lack of jobs and corruption by government officials, local media has reported.Nearly 10,000 people gathered in the central square of the desert town of Ouargla on Thursday, chanting “the people want the downfall of corruption” and anti-government slogans. The demonstrators claim the government is marginalising the sparsely populate south and central parts of the vast North African country, even though all the oil and gas installations are located there. Ouargla province has a flourishing oil industry but many in the capital, also called Ouargla, are chronically unemployed and do not benefit from Algeria’s wealth, which stems from natural resources.
Demonstrators in the Sahara town were calling for jobs and development of the central and southern regions, saying the demands were strictly social and that they were not aimed at bringing down the government. Former Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) activist and Islamist leader Ali Belhadj was stopped by security forces from entering Ouargla city to join the protesters, local media reported. Demonstrators were told to disperse but they refused and said they intended to remain in place. Earlier this week, the government in Algiers, the capital, promised to address youth unemployment in the south in a bid to quell the growing anger.
Ex-ETA leader sentenced to 20 years by France
A former military leader of the Basque separatist organisation ETA, known by the alias “Txeroki”, or “Cherokee”, was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a French court on Wednesday on charges of kidnapping and bomb-making. Miguel de Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina was arrested in 2008 in the mountainous Pyrenees region near the border with Spain and linked to the kidnapping of a Spanish couple and a child in the region the previous year.
At the time, he was Spain’s most-wanted man due to his alleged role in a 2006 bomb attack on Madrid airport that killed two people. The French court found him guilty of having made some 500 kg of explosives as well as abducting the couple and their four-old-child while they were on a camper van trip. Nine co-defendants were handed jail sentences ranging from eight to 20 years.