May Day 5
72763.2240 at compuserve.com
Thu May 2 09:15:22 MDT 1996
By Nicole Volpe
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, May 1 (Reuter) - Police nearly outnumbered
protesters at a May Day demonstration against controversial economic reforms
that would privatise a dozen of Haiti's biggest industries.
About 600 demonstrators joined the march on the National Palace in
downtown Port-au-Prince and police said the event was peaceful. ``This is a
very small group,'' said one of the scores of police officers visible along
the march route. ``I think we have an easy day.''
Although the protesters chanted menacing slogans such as ``If you
privatise we will burn you,'' the group reached the National Palace with no
incidents of violence and the demonstrators burned their signs and went home.
``This just kind of fizzled out,'' said protester Richard Joseph, who
added that he thought President Rene Preval was likely to be smiling as he
watched the small group from his National Palace window.
Some Haitians had expressed fears that the protest, expected to be far
larger, would turn deadly as desperation in the region's poorest nation turned
Some citizens fear that the government plan to privatise Haiti's ports,
the airport, telephone company, electric company and cement and flour
factories will eliminate thousands of jobs in the turbulent nation where the
unemployment rate is already approaching 80 percent.
The dispute over privatisation has raged for months. Smarck Michel, the
pro-business prime minister of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide,
resigned over the government's failure to to pursue privatisation last fall.
Aristide did not pursue the programme, in spite of mandates to do so from
international agencies dispensing millions of dollars in aid to Haiti, and
left it to his successor, Preval, who was inaugurated in February.
To head off anger, Preval Tuesday unveiled to journalists the workings of
``Democratization by Capitalisation,'' his programme to create joint ventures
with private companies.
Handing out six pages of charts, graphs and lists of the benefits of the
programme, loosely based on a model used to privatise large public
enterprises in Bolivia, Preval said the government would not sell state-owned
Instead, he is inviting private bidders to form joint ventures to bring
technology, management and cash to help weak public enterprises turn a profit.
Those profits will be reinvested in local governments, he added.
But some independent business sources criticise Preval's plan as being too
optimistic and based on political necessity rather than economic sense. The
draft privitization law may be introduced to parliament next week.
MINSK, May 1 (Reuter) - Thousands of Belarussians turned May Day
celebrations into mass rallies against poor economic conditions and the
pro-Russian policies of President Alexander Lukashenko on Wednesday.
A trade union protest attracted about 20,000 people who marched through
the capital of the former Soviet republic making mostly economic demands.
At a separate rally, up to 7,000 nationalists made the latest in a series
of protests against Lukashenko's bid to form some kind of union with Russia.
One young nationalist set fire to a portrait of the Belarussian leader.
Wednesday's protests were peaceful, but last Friday a march to mark the
10th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster turned violent.
Up to 40,000 people poured through Minsk then in an outpouring of
anti-Lukashenko feeling. Protesters overturned cars and traded blows with
Dozens of people were arrested and sentenced on Tuesday to short prison
terms. Also on Tuesday, police raided the offices of the main opposition
nationalist group, the Belarussian Popular Front (BNF), as its leaders were
conducting a news conference.
The BNF urged its supporters to stay away from the May Day rallies after
On Wednesday, a camera crew working for Russia's commercial NTV
television said a group of plain-clothed men attacked them, refused to show
any identification and confiscated three tapes.
NTV correspondent Alexander Stupnikov told Reuters by telephone the men
beat the cameraman and only retreated when a crowd began to gather round. NTV
had shown extensive coverage of last Friday's clashes and of subsequent
Stupnikov said another group of men tried to stop Russian state
television's car but it got away.
In the Ukrainian capital Kiev, communists and nationalists held separate
The authorities banned a communist demonstration along Kiev's Kreshchatik
main thoroughfare but up to 5,000 mostly elderly Communists gathered at a
square. Some 3,000 nationalists, some in uniform, held a separate rally.
BERLIN, May 2 (Reuter) - A night of clashes in east Berlin between
police and young leftist rioters hurling bottles, stones and fireworks left
48 officers hurt, police said on Thursday.
Police used tear gas and batons against the demonstrators on Wednesday
night when a radical leftist May Day parade turned violent. The clashes
subsided in the early hours of Thursday after lasting over seven hours.
Police said 201 protesters were detained, 96 on suspicion of arson,
causing bodily harm or committing public order offences. The remainder were
held temporarily in custody to prevent them taking part in the violence.
Around 10,000 mostly young people took part in the radical leftist rally
in a part of formerly communist east Berlin frequented by young leftist
alternative groups and squatters.
Authorities had said they feared trouble after new city interior minister
Joerg Schoenbohm decided to evict a number of squatters.
The demonstration was separate from an official Labour Day rally of
20,000 trade union supporters protesting against Chancellor Helmut Kohl's
budget and welfare package.
LAGOS, April 30 (Reuter) - Politically-volatile Nigeria has declared
Wednesday a public holiday to mark workers' May Day but for the second year
running there will be no rallies, the News Agency of Nigeria reported on
The umbrella Nigeria Labour Congress and the two oil unions have been run
by officials appointed by the military government since August 1994 when the
labour leaders were sacked for leading a pro-democracy strike.
They had been demanding the release and installation as Nigerian
president of Moshood Abiola, the undeclared winner of the annulled 1993
Labour minister Uba Ahmed told the agency rallies would not be held and
celebrations would be low-keyed because of an on-going restructuring of the
labour movement. No rallies were held last year because of what unionists
described as inactivity in the labour movement.
The government has undertaken a major reorganisation of Nigerian trade
unions to reduce their numbers and merge some unions.
May Day started about 100 years ago when Americans workers went on strike
to protest against abuse of human rights after many of their colleagues were
killed by police.
ROME, May 1 (Reuter) - Italian unions marked International Labour Day on
Wednesday with marches throughout the country while Rome celebrated the
national holiday with a huge open-air rock concert attended by over 300,000
British rock star Sting kicked off the 14-hour music marathon in warm
spring sunshine in the enormous square next to Rome's San Giovanni cathedral.
``I'm happy with my job and it's nice to be in Rome to celebrate that,''
Sting told reporters before going on stage. ``But a lot of countries do not
have enough work to go round.''
Italian union leaders at a rally in Catania, Sicily, put joblessness at
the top of their agenda for Labour Day.
``Employment must remain the number one priority,'' Sergio Cofferati, the
leader of Italy's largest union, the Cigl, told a 40,000-strong crowd.
Walter Veltroni, number two in the centre-left Olive Tree coalition which
won the Italian election on April 21, said fighting unemployment would be the
new government's first task.
Unemployment is running at 21.7 percent in the south of Italy against 6.7
percent in the rich north to give a national jobless rate of 12.2 percent.
E-mail from: Jonathan E. Flanders, 02-May-1996
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