With a strike that lasted from Feb. 24 to March 8, tens of thousands of Colombian coffee growers took to the streets in towns and cities across the country, demanding relief for a sector hard hit by neoliberal policies—and ultimately claiming victory despite government intransigence and calumnies. The cafeteros refused to harvest beans, blocked traffic, and prevented beans from being loaded at port terminals, in a wave of actions across Colombia's highland coffee belt, stretching from Nariño in the south to Antioquia in the north.
As tens of thousands of activists from around the world converge on Tunisia for the World Social Forum, the annual anti-globalization confab, the country is facing a pending peckage of austerity measures as the condition of a $1.78 billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund—two years after economic misery sparked an uprising in the country that unleashed the Arab Revolutions. "We need to have economic reforms that work for the people, not for the global economy," Mabrouka Mbarek, a member of Tunisia's constituent assembly, told Al Jazeera. "It seems they have forgotten our history." (Al Jazeera, March 26)
Workers started a 72-hour strike at the Somina uranium mine in northern Niger March 20, demanding better wages and the release of unpaid bonuses. A spokesman for the Syntramines union told Reuters 680 workers have downed tools for the strike, which could be extended to an open-ended stoppage if demands were not met. Somina is run by the uranium unit of the China National Nuclear Corporation, Sino-U, in a partnership with Niger's government. The mine, in the remote Agadez region, was established in 2007, producing 700 tons annually. Niger is also top uranium supplier to France, which is expanding operations. Areva’s Imouraren mine is expected to more than double the French company's current production in Niger when it comes online in 2014, with expected output of 5,000 tons per year. (Reuters, March 21; Asia Daily Wire, Press TV, March 20)
Thousands of teachers from the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), the largest dissident group in Mexico's 1.5 million-member National Education Workers Union (SNTE), marched in Mexico City on March 5 to protest a series of "educational reforms" that President Enrique Peña Nieto signed into law on Feb. 25. The teachers were also demanding the resignation of the new SNTE president, Juan Diaz de la Torre, who they say was appointed in a backroom deal after the Feb. 26 arrest of former president Elba Esther Gordillo Morales on charges of embezzling $157 million from union funds. According to the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) police, some 7,000 protesters joined the march from the central Zócalo plaza to the Los Pinos presidential palace, where a 10-member delegation presented officials with a petition.
Mexican federal agents arrested Elba Esther Gordillo Morales, president of the 1.5 million-member National Education Workers Union (SNTE), on Feb. 26 in the airport at Toluca, the capital of México state, on corruption charges. According to Attorney General Jesús Murillo Kara, Gordillo used millions of dollars from union funds to buy properties in California, to shop at the Neiman Marcus department store and to pay for plastic surgery. The arrest came one day after President Enrique Peña Nieto signed into law a series of "educational reforms" that include regular teacher assessments and measures that would limit the union's power. Gordillo opposed the new law and didn't attend the signing ceremony.
The Association of Victims of March 3 in Vitória, Spain, marked the 37th anniversary of the massacre at the Basque Country city with a public demonstration demanding that the Madrid government officially recognize the facts of the incident, which they say have been excised from the history of the democratic transition after the death of dictator Francisco Franco. The demonstration was coordinated with protests against Spain's pending neoliberal education reform, which brought 3,000 to Vitória's streets. Similar numbers were reported in Bilbao, the largest city in the Basque Country, or Euskal Herria.
Hundreds of Islamists demonstrated in Aman, Jordan, after Friday prayers Feb. 22 to demand faster political reform after an election weeks earlier that produced a mostly pro-government parliament. Muslim Brotherhood followers marched from the main Husseini mosque to downtown Amman in the first such protest since the Jan. 23 ballot. The group boycotted the vote, saying electoral rules were loaded against it. Protesters chanted: "Reform is what is required; Justice and freedom and not these sham elections and deputies." (Daily Star, Lebanon, Feb. 22)
Colombia's largest coal miner, Cerrejon, said Feb. 24 that rebels broke into its facility at Mina Sur, La Guajira department, and burned four of the company's trucks in what it called a "terrorist attack." The attack came four days after the company declared force majeure in the face of work stoppage that began on Feb. 7. Cerrejon, a joint venture between Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Xstrata, operates Colombia's largest open-pit mine, and has frequently been the target of guerilla attacks. Both the FARC and ELN guerilla groups operate in the zone. In 2012, Cerrejon produced around 34.6 million tons of coal, half of which was exported to Europe. (Colombia Reports, Feb. 24; Energy Global, Feb. 20)