labor

HK police thwart Handover anniversary demos

Hong Kong police arrested 11 people for distributing "seditious publications" on July 1, as the force erected tight cordons across the city on the 24th anniversary of its handover to China. Citing pandemic restrictions, the Security Bureau warned that those taking part in unauthorized demonstrations may face jail. Police pre-emptively sealed off Victoria Park—the traditional starting point for pro-democracy marches on that date—saying there had been calls online for people to join an unauthorized assembly there. But there were scattered small gatherings at other points around the city. The 11 arrests took place in Mong Kok commercial district, where a group of activists distributed leaflets. They were detained under the Crimes Ordinance, which dates to the British colonial era. Those arrested include Student Politicism leaders Wong Yat-chin and Chan Chi-sum.

Migrant kids languish at Fort Bliss

Advocacy groups for migrants on the US southern border are protesting conditions at Texas' Fort Bliss, an Army base that the Biden administration has opened as an emergency holding facility. Nearly 5,000 minors who crossed the border without a parent or guardian are currently being held in large tents at the base. This is about a quarter of the total number of minors in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a body of the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). As of late May, nearly 600 of these had spent 40 days or longer at the "megasite." Nearly 1,700 minors had been there for at least a month, according to government data. Unlike traditional HHS shelters for migrant children, Fort Bliss and other emergency "influx" sites are not licensed by state authorities to care for minors, and have lower standards of care.

Colombia: Duque unleashes army on protesters

Colombian President Iván Duque on May 28 announced the deployment of military forces to put down the protests that have been rocking the country since a national strike was called a month ago. Speaking from violence-torn Cali as some 1,400 soldiers arrived in the city, he said army troops would focus on "nerve centers where we have seen acts of vandalism, violence and low-intensity urban terrorism." An additional 7,000 troops were sent to break up roadblocks in the local department of Valle del Cauca. "Islands of anarchy cannot exist," Duque declared.

AFL-CIO files labor suit against Mexico factory

The American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) announced May 10 that they have filed a complaint against Tridonex, a Mexican auto parts factory and subsidiary of the Philadelphia-based Cardone Industries, located in the city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas state. The AFL-CIO is joined in the suit by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), adocacy group Public Citizen, and a Mexican union, the National Independent Syndicate of Industrial & Service Workers (SNITIS), 

Peru: electoral upset portends polarization

Peru seems poised for polarization following surprise results in first-round presidential elections April 11, that saw a previously unknown leftist candidate, Pedro Castillo, taking 19% of the vote in a very crowded field—more than any of his rivals. In a June 6 run-off, he will face his runner-up—hard-right candidate Keiko Fujimori, who took 13%. The two candidates represent the extremes of Peru's electoral spectrum. Fujimori is the daughter of imprisoned ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori—and had herself been imprisoned as corruption charges were pending against her last year. Her Fuerza Popular party is the paradoxical populist vehicle of the most reactionary sectors of the country's elites, and has actually been assailed by columnist César Hildebrandt as a "mafia organization."

Mexico: court suspends new electricity law

A Mexican court issued a definitive suspension March 19 against the new Electricity Law that aims to strengthen the state-run company, Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE). The law is supported by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who wants to increase state control of the energy market. López Obrador claimed that under the previous administration, the electricity market was skewed in favor of private operators. Grupo BimboWalmart Inc and two unnamed companies filed challenges against the law. The US Chamber of Commerce expressed concern that the new law violates the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and may create a monopoly in the electricity sector.

March revolution in Paraguay?

Paraguay is witnessing an explosion of mass protest over government mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis. With hospitals overwhelmed and infections soaring, teachers refused orders for a mandatory return to classes on March 2. The following day, nurses, doctors, patients and their families demonstrated outside the main hospital in the capital Asunción to protest the lack of vaccines, protective equipment and basic medications. On March 5, widespread protests escalated to clashes with the riot police, leaving one demonstrator dead and several injured. President Mario Abdo Benítez of the conservative Colorado Party offered dialogue and forced the resignation of several cabinet members, including health minister Julio Mazzoleni. But protesters are continuing to mobilize, demanding the resignation of Abdo himself and his entire government, under the slogan !Que se vayan todos! (Throw them all out!)

China: rights defender detained in 'quarantine'

Li Qiaochu, a feminist, labor researcher, and human rights defender who has especially advocated for the rights of migrant workers in China, is being held incommunicado following her arrest for "subversion of state power." Li was detained Feb. 6 in Beijing, where she lives, and taken to Linyi city in Shandong province, where her partner and fellow human rights defender Xu Zhiyong is also detained and facing the same charge. Li's detention follows her disclosure of Xu's torture and mistreatment in detention. On Feb. 19, Li's lawyer formally requested that the Linyi Municipal Public Security Bureau grant access to her, and was told she is being held in quarantine at a local hospital. She is apparently to be transferred to the Linyi Municipal Detention Center once the quarantine is completed.

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